News

Tributes flow for hero lifesavers

By Dairy News

The south — west Victorian dairy community has lost two of its finest.

The deaths of long — term dairy farmers and Port Campbell surf lifesaving volunteers Ross and Andy Powell has rocked the local town, the farming community and the national surf lifesaving fraternity.

The father and son, aged 71 and 32, died on Easter Sunday trying to rescue a man in rough seas off the coast near Port Campbell.

The Powells farmed at Cooriemungle, 15 km from the iconic Port Campbell National Park. They had been long - term members of the surf lifesaving club.

WestVic dairy chair Simone Renyard said the region was mourning their loss.

“They were incredibly savvy business owners and incredibly generous with their time,” Ms Renyard said. “That came through from Ross and was continued by Andy, not only in surf lifesaving but in other community organisations and in farming.

“As we mourn as a community and region, we have to come to terms with what a big loss they will be for all of us.”

Andy was named the young farmer of the year at the 2017 Great South West Dairy Awards.

Ms Renyard said she expected the community would come together to recognise the pair and ensure their legacies live on.

Already more than $100 000 has been raised on a GoFundMe page for Andy’s partner Amber who is expecting their first child in August.

Lifeguards around Australia also paused for a minute’s silence as a tribute to the pair, and their bravery was acknowledged by political, industry and community leaders locally and around the country.

The Powell farm — named Warraboon after Warracknabeal and Timboon, the homes of Andy’s grandparents — was settled as a sheep property.

They later diversified into beef but about 50 years ago a fellow farmer told Ross that if he wanted to make money, he should go into dairy farming. They sold the beef cows and converted half the farm into a trial dairy.

After the first year, dairy income almost doubled that of sheep and since then it has been totally dairy.

In recent years Andy had taken over running the farm while Ross still contributed along with four staff members.

In an interview last year with Dairy News Australia, Andy said he used his surf club and SES training experience to create a positive working culture on the farm.

He also spoke of how he relished the farming lifestyle, which allowed opportunities to contribute to the community.

“We aim to be proactive farmers; we want to stay ahead of the game,” Andy said at the time.

“We’re always looking for opportunities where we can improve the farm.”

Both father and son were proactive in the dairy community, including a long — established Port Campbell dairy discussion group.

Andy was also involved with the Timboon P - 12 Agriculture Project, showcasing the dairy industry to local students, and the Powells regularly hosted extension programs on their farm.

Fellow lifesaver Phil Younis was seriously injured in the rescue attempt but is recovering after surgery in The Alfred hospital.