The Scuba Divers Federation of South Australia celebrated its 50th anniversary in November 2018. The Federation is the peak body for recreational scuba divers, freedivers and snorkellers in South Australia. It is an association of scuba diving shops, clubs, related NGOs and individuals from across the State.
The Federation was first formed in 1968 in response to the government’s intention to impose regulations on the sport of SCUBA. This was successfully stopped, on the condition that the sport self-regulate, with an acceptable set of rules and regulations. The result was the Scuba Divers Association incorporating the Scuba Instructors Association (SDA).
Initially, membership of SDA was open primarily to individual divers. It was, however, realised that many divers in SA were joining clubs, so the SDA took on a new format. In 1975, the SDA started to reform itself to cater for clubs only.
The SDA went on to become the Scuba Divers Association of South Australia. The aims of the SDASA were “to represent the member clubs . . . in any matters that may arise which may affect divers”. Back then, the SDASA was essentially an anti-spearfishing body but with an interest in a range of environmental issues such as the drains at Aldinga Beach and protection for the Blue Groper as well as diver safety.
A meeting was held at the home of Peter Stone on 13th June 1977 “to form a national Scuba Diving body”. It became the inaugural meeting of the Scuba Divers Federation of Australia (SDFA). The SDASA attended the meeting and they became affiliated members of the Federation that same year.
The SDASA became an incorporated body (with an official constitution) on 24th November 1977.
At its AGM on 18th June 1985, the Scuba Divers Association of SA changed its name to become the Scuba Divers Federation of SA (SDFSA) and adopted a new logo.
In 1986 the SDFSA announced the launch of its Aldinga Reef Reserve Monitoring Project. It was believed that the deterioration of the Aldinga Reef ‘drop-off’ was caused by stormwater run-off at Port Willunga Creek and Cactus Canyon, however the (then) Willunga Council did not believe this was a cause. The Monitoring Project provided data to show that this was the case, along with silt coming from cultivation fields in rural catchment areas.
In October 1995, it was decided that the SDFSA would seek to have diver access steps installed on the Port Noarlunga jetty. Steps were ultimately built and opened on 6th December 1997. The new jetty steps were officially opened by Ray Gilbert, Mayor of the City of Onkaparinga.
About 1996, the SDFSA had discussions with SARDI re possibility of doing some long-term monitoring. A steering committee comprising SARDI, Adelaide Uni & the SDFSA was established to develop a long-term community-based natural reef monitoring program. The steering committee was called the Coastal Issues Action Group. By the start of 1997 the Reef Watch program had begun. The goals of the program were “Community awareness and action for the marine environment and to provide a baseline data point to use as a management tool”. A Reef Watch Officer was employed 2 ½ days per week. (The Reef Watch dive program had started by mid-1997.)
Over the years, approximately 20 SDFSA Dive Rallies were held at Aldinga Beach up to 2001. Popular events at the annual Dive Rally included the Tank Toss and the Tug of War. A rally planned for 24th February 2002 was postponed (and ultimately cancelled) due to concerns over public liability. In 2019, SDFSA purchased public liability insurance for the first time in order to host diver events for its membership.
In 2002, the SDFSA surveyed its member clubs about their ten most important issues. High on that list was the Rapid Bay jetty. The jetty had fallen into a state of disrepair and its future was uncertain. It eventually closed altogether. Hard work by stakeholder groups such as the Friends of Rapid Bay Jetty, the SDFSA and SARFAC (the SA Recreational Fishing Advisory Committee) finally paid off. The SA State Government’s announced its plans for the building of a new jetty at Rapid Bay on 8th September 2006. Then Premier, Mike Rann made the announcement down at Rapid Bay in front of the media and stakeholders. A new $3.9m, 240m-long, steel and concrete jetty was opened by Patrick Conlon, Infrastructure Minister, on 11th March 2009. The new jetty has a purpose-built divers’ platform providing easy access to the water.
The ex-HMAS Hobart was de-commissioned on 12th May 2000 and gifted to the South Australian government. The SDFSA executive committee viewed the ship on 10th August 2002 whilst she was at No.1 Dock at Port Adelaide. The committee then organised a tour of the ship for members of SDFSA member clubs on 18th October 2002. The Hobart left the dock on 2nd November 2002 and she was scuttled as a dive wreck in Yankalilla Bay on 5th November 2002.
In 2005, the SDFSA revised and updated its foundational rules and regulations for diver safety: see the SDFSA Dive Procedures.
In 2017, the SDFSA launched a new program — “Scuba in the Pub” or “Scubar”– a bimonthly get-together to engage and inform divers and others about the science and beauty of the underwater environment. In 2019, this became an independent initiative, and SDFSA focused on its promotion and advocacy roles.
In 2019, SDFSA refreshed its communications (logo, website and Facebook presence), updated its Constitution and revised its membership structure with a return to a stronger focus on individual membership: encouraging more individual members to join along with shops and clubs. The intention was to open the SDFSA up to much broader participation and to position the Federation more strongly for the purposes of advocacy and fundraising. in addition to its standing concern for diver safety and dive procedures, it also outlined seven issues that it tracks on behalf of its members: State-wide jetties; artificial reefs; marine parks and protected areas; sharks; wrecks and underwater cultural heritage; underwater trails; and marine debris and cleanups.
November 2019 saw the SDFSA launch of its inaugural SA Scuba Week, to promote the enjoyment and preservation of SA’s unique underwater world (See the report on its outcomes here).
There is still much work to be done on a continuing basis to protect the marine environment and the safety of scuba divers. We can only do this well with the support of the majority of divers. If you are not yet a member of the SDFSA, please consider joining us, as there is strength in numbers. Membership application forms can be found here.