Parents of children who participate in the Nippers program in Western Australia are unhappy with the sponsorship deal between Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA) and Woodside, a major fossil fuel company. They say that the deal, which gives Woodside the naming rights of the Nippers, is inappropriate and hypocritical, as it contradicts the values of environmental stewardship and sustainability that the program teaches.
The Nippers program is a popular initiative that aims to teach children aged 5 to 13 about surf safety, lifesaving skills, and beach culture. It also encourages them to develop a love and respect for the ocean and the coast. However, some parents feel that the program is being used as a marketing tool for Woodside, which is one of the largest producers of oil and gas in Australia and has plans to expand its operations in the Burrup Hub project.
A group of surf lifesavers called Sustain Surf has launched a campaign, supported by Greenpeace Australia Pacific, to urge SLSWA to end the sponsorship deal with Woodside. They have released a video of WA parents expressing their concerns and dissatisfaction with the deal. They have also started a petition with the slogan “free the Nippers”, which has gathered almost 5,000 signatures so far.
Woodside defends its sponsorship as a community service
Woodside has been a sponsor of SLSWA for over a decade, and in 2019, it announced a $5 million five-year naming rights partnership for the Nippers program. The company claims that its sponsorship is a way of supporting the community and providing opportunities for young people to learn valuable skills and enjoy the beach.
Woodside’s chief executive officer Peter Coleman said that the company was proud of its partnership with SLSWA and that it shared its vision of creating a safer and more inclusive WA. He said that Woodside was committed to reducing its emissions and investing in low-carbon solutions, while also providing reliable and affordable energy for the state.
“We believe that our sponsorship of SLSWA is consistent with our values and our contribution to society,” Coleman said. “We respect the right of people to express their views, but we also ask them to respect ours.”
SLSWA faces pressure to reconsider its partnership with Woodside
SLSWA has not yet responded to the campaign or the petition, but it is expected to face pressure from its members and stakeholders to reconsider its partnership with Woodside. The issue is likely to be raised at its annual general meeting this weekend, where some clubs may voice their opposition to the deal.
Sustain Surf’s spokesperson Tim Winton said that SLSWA had a responsibility to act in the best interest of its members and the environment, and that it should not align itself with a company that was contributing to the climate crisis. He said that SLSWA had a history of being progressive and innovative, and that it should follow the example of other organisations that had cut ties with fossil fuel companies.
“We are not asking SLSWA to bite the hand that feeds them. We are asking them to find a more suitable sponsor that reflects their values and mission,” Winton said. “We are confident that there are many other businesses and organisations that would be happy to support SLSWA and the Nippers without compromising their integrity or reputation.”
Meta Description: Parents of WA Nippers want SLSWA to end its sponsorship deal with Woodside, a fossil fuel company, saying it is hypocritical and inappropriate.