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Origins overview

The origins of Volunteer Marine Rescue Western Australia (VMRWA) can be traced back to the early 1970's with the establishment of the first Sea Rescue Groups.

Their number grew to 25 in 1987. The differences in the way metropolitan and regional Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) groups operated resulted in the formation of two representative bodies.

The Metropolitan groups formed the West Coast Marine Search and Rescue Association and the Regional groups formed Volunteer Marine Rescue WA (VMRWA).

In 2002, all VMR groups in WA moved under the umbrella of the Fire and Emergency Services Authority.

Chronological history

The first volunteer sea rescue groups were established or forming at various locations throughout Western Australia.


A representative body at the State level, Volunteer Sea Search and Rescue Association (VSSRA), was formed.


By this time a total of 25 Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) groups had been established under their own constitutions as incorporated associations to meet local needs.

All groups were members of VSSRA and were encouraged to attend or be represented at VSSRA council meetings.



The Marine Emergency Management Scheme (MEMS) was established, detailing the management arrangements for marine search and rescue within the scope of State responsibility under Commonwealth/State arrangements.

Under MEMS the responsibility for development, maintenance and implementation of the scheme was allocated to the WA Marine Search and Rescue Coordinating Committee.
23 groups adopt the use of the VMR block of radio call signs across the state.

There were significant differences between the metropolitan and regional volunteer marine rescue organisations which resulted in the formation of two representative bodies.

The Metropolitan groups formed the West Coast Marine Search and Rescue Association. The Regional groups formed Volunteer Marine Rescue WA (VMRWA).


The Minister for Police and Emergency Services transferred coordination of marine rescue from WA Water Police to the newly forming Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA).
The Police remained the Hazard Management Authority (HMA).


Formal recognition of the Marine Rescue Service as an Emergency Service was incorporated into the Fire and Emergency Service Act. All VMRWA groups moved under the umbrella of the Fire and Emergency Services Authority.


Volunteer Marine Rescue Western Australia (VMRWA) was invited to nominate a representative to the FESA board, and the VMR Consultative Committee was formed. VMRWA also formulated its first formal Strategic Plan.

VMRWA was formally recognised by the State Government as the peak body in WA for all things VMR.

Ministerial appointments to the newly formed Volunteer Advisory Committee provided the vehicle for VMR Volunteers to discuss and make recommendations on strategic VMR issues which were available to government and DFES alike.

VMRWA replaced DFES as the West Australian representative at the National Volunteer Marine Search and Rescue Committee recognised as the peak body for VMR nationally.

Outcomes from this national body with AMSA saw Exemption 24 put in place relating directly to the various Marine Orders (EX24) giving existing VMR Volunteers some surety that past skills and existing rescue vessels were accommodated into the new Domestic Commercial Vessel regime.

VMR Volunteers together with DFES formally adopted the training pathways that ensured a consistent level of skillsets were available for every VMR Volunteer.

VMRWA today

Today, there are 39 member groups supporting marine rescue (including the Indian Ocean Territories) in WA. More than 1,400 volunteers dedicate their time to help make our coastal waters safe for everyone to use and enjoy.

VMRWA continues to be the only State or Territory that owns and operates two rescue vessels available for use by our member groups when needed should their resources be out of operation for a variety of reasons.

VMRWA also owns and operates a truck capable of delivering these resources all around the State.

VMRWA maintains a strong affiliation and works closely with our partner and governing body, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES)

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