Aileen 'Mac' Kennedy BEM

Already well known in the South Melbourne community, in 1944 Aileen ‘Mac’ Kennedy was approached by South Melbourne Council to reform the South Melbourne Life Saving Club following the drowning of children on the foreshore in December 1943. She, together with her husband, met with several other local community members and agreed to formally reform the club that had declined due to war times. She was elected to the position of secretary in 1944, a position she held until her death in 1980. She was made a life member of the SMLSC in 1957.

Mac was recognised on multiple occasions by the Royal Life Saving Society in the Commonwealth and UK headquarters. She received the Recognition Badge in 1956, Service Cross in 1968 and bar in 1978, Certificate of Merit in 1973 and made a Life member of RLSS (Victoria Branch) 1961/62. Mac was awarded the British Empire Medal for her services to Life Saving. The then City of South Melbourne noted at a council meeting that she would be honoured with a memorial named after her (which was not achieved at the time).

Mac did all of this as a volunteer. Not only was she prominent in lifesaving but also in athletic associations, and was the first female to hold the position of starter in the Commonwealth Games. Such positions were only previous held by men, as they dominated these activities.

Aileen Kennedy left a tangible legacy in the City. Without her reforming the South Melbourne Life Saving Club, and serving as secretary for 36 years, the club may well not exist to provide the valuable service to the City of Port Phillip and the wider beach going community. She was a great role model to women in both lifesaving and athletics, breaking through male dominated barriers and mentoring women in these fields

The naming in November 2019 of the new South Melbourne Life Saving Club after Aileen Kennedy is a worthy and appropriate acknowledgement of her contribution to life saving, and a tribute to her work within our community.

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