Tony Waller doesn’t mince his words.
“I’ve seen some things that would make the human spirit sink and then I’ve seen things that just make the human spirit fly,” Waller, a rescue crew officer with the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service, tells Westpac Wire in an interview to mark the five-year extension of the bank’s partnership with the organisation.
Waller, a professional firefighter and former surf lifesaver, is one of the long-time volunteers critical to the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service, which began doing patrols on the Sydney beaches in 1973 and has since grown nationally.
"Back in 1984 I applied to be a crewman. It was as simple as a notice went up at the surf club saying they needed volunteer crew on the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service helicopter.” Out of the 120 that applied, Waller was one of four chosen.
For 32 of those years, he’s worked alongside senior crewman Trevor Cracknell, who signals complete confidence in working with Waller on everything from land to water rescues due to his skills.
The compliments are mutual.
“He’s the glue in the whole thing,” Waller says of Cracknell.
“It was about ‘86 I think Trev joined us, he had a background as a lifeguard and was an Australian swimming champion…somebody once said to me, ‘if you needed rescuing who would you want to come get you’, and that would be Trevor Cracknell.”
Cracknell has long lost count of how many rescue missions he has undertaken, but is confident it would be over a thousand. “Look, 32 years, there hasn't been a morning I’ve woken up not wanting to come into work. As long as we can keep going, we'll probably be in our 90s and we'll still be here, well that’s our plan anyway.”