Warren Smith made Freeman of the City

22 Feb 2018

Long-serving Newcastle City Council lifeguard and Surfest co-founder Warren Smith has been made a Freeman of the City for more than four decades of dedicated service to Newcastle.

Smith, 64, was honoured with the city's highest formal recognition when Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes presented him the Freeman medal at a function at Merewether Surf Club today.

Freeman of the City, Warren Smith, and his medal with Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes.

The Lord Mayor told the Surfest sponsors luncheon that Smith saved countless lives while on duty during his 40-year career and even a few while off relaxing with his family.

"It's my great honour to thank Warren for more than 40 years of service to our great city," the Lord Mayor said.

"To many he is a familiar face and voice who either saved their life or intervened before they got into trouble by directing them back between the red and yellow flags with a whistle, or frank address over the PA system.

"So I am delighted to award him our city's highest honour on behalf of all the Novocastrians he looked out for over four decades.

"His heroics didn’t stop at the end of his work day either - Warren's family recall him plunging into the diving pool at Lambton Pool more than 25 years ago to save two struggling swimmers when he was off duty."

Photograph courtesy Newcastle Herald

Smith began as a casual lifeguard at Newcastle Beach in 1974 before working full time at Nobbys from 1975 to 2014.

He was working the day the Sygna ran aground and braved huge seas to help rescue the crew of the Pasha Bulker when it ran aground in June 2007.

Smith's 33-year association with Surfest and instrumental role ending the culture wars between 'clubbies' and surfers are also behind today's recognition.

"Warren co-founded Surfest with Nat Jefferey and the late Robbie Wood, with help from Council aldermen and Warren's dad, Kevin, in 1985, and he's still coordinating it today, which is an incredible effort by an indefatigable man," Councillor Nelmes said.

"He has helped grow the event into Australia’s largest surfing festival, and I'm proud to say that Newcastle City Council has been with him every step of the way as a major supporter.

"And over the decades he has also been a tireless advocate for all things Newcastle, spruiking the city to out-of-towners invariably directed his way after making inquiries.

Warren and his family after receiving the honour from the Lord Mayor.

Freeman of the City is an honour bestowed by a council or municipality upon a valued member of the public, or upon a visiting dignitary.

Past local recipients include Joy Cummings, John and Margaret McNaughton, Charlie Jones and Frank Purdue.

The honour dates back to the medieval practice of granting respected citizens freedom from serfdom, a tradition that lives on ceremonially in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.

Freedom of the City can also be granted by local authorities to military units that have earned the city's trust.

Called Freedom of Entry, this was extended to the crew of HMAS Newcastle during its port call for last year's Anzac Day commemorations.

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