Australian Charity for those lost at sea


 This document has been produced by Women in Seafood Australasia (WISA) in order to define the purpose and scope of an Australian charity to provide financial assistance and support to commercial fishing families who have tragically lost a loved one at sea.


WISA held a ‘Stronger Seafood Communities’ workshop on 19 October 2018 in Adelaide.  The workshop was attended by four women from the Irish Women in Fisheries Network who presented on a charity in Ireland called LAST (Lost at Sea Tragedies) Previous discussions had taken place with the Irish Network and the seed had been planted for WISA to take the lead on a similar charity in Australia.  After the inspiring LAST presentation at the workshop, the WISA Board decided to take on the challenge.

There are a number of industry related safety and wellbeing initiatives underway in the Australian fishing industry, many in conjunction with government.  One of the most recent is the National RD&E Seafood Industry Safety Initiative, which broadly aims to improve the safety, health and wellbeing of all individuals working in the fishing and aquaculture industry.

Proactive and pre-emptive safety measures will always be the preferred approach to prevent the loss of life and injury.  Notwithstanding the benefit of these programs, there are still occurrences where fishers lose their lives at sea or are permanently disabled while working.  The loss or serious injury of a loved one places a range of emotional and financial stresses on those left behind.  Not just in the short term but also in the longer term.


‘Hope, Strength, Help’

Hope = rescue

Strength = support

Help = lives

The primary purpose will be to provide a lifeline of support for families of fishers lost at sea because when a crisis like that strikes who can people turn to?  It’s the first 24-48 hours that people need assistance.  We envisage that the charity will provide emergency support (this will include financial as well as emotional) to people when they are at their most vulnerable.


Proactive and Responsive

Supportive and Non-judgmental

Committed and Dependable

Honest and Respectful


The organisation will seek charitable status from the Australian Government.


WISA intends that the charity will be non-judgemental and be seen as a trusted place for the support of, and to receive donations for, families that require assistance after the loss of a loved one at sea.


Provide immediate emergency support to families of those who are lost at sea:

  • Respond as soon as practically possible
  • Co-ordinate pastoral/other support (charity ambassadors etc.) for the affected family
  • Financial assistance (no questions asked) to help with immediate commitments i.e. travel to the place of the tragedy, counsellor, household bills, food


Broader initiatives may include

  • Assistance with the logistics of arranging a funeral
  • An educational bursary for each of the children in school
  • Logistic support for those navigating the difficult process of dealing with wills, insurance payouts, existing bank loans in joint names, cancelling phone plans in the name of the deceased etc.
  • Public or private memorial services (possibly including the erection of a memorial plaque at the port of the tragedy)
  • Assistance with any WorkSafe or Coronial proceedings which may follow, and ensuring the families are involved
  • Helping to communicate the outcomes and recommendations of any investigations back through industry in the hope that similar tragedies can be avoided
  • Assistance with fielding media attention and deflecting it from the families if needed


Funding will be the key to determining the charity’s capacity to achieve the goals.  Support will be sought from industry and from the community.  Broader support from non-donors will also be sought through mechanisms such as having a website which allows people to register their interest in the organisation even if they don’t donate.  Australians For Mental Health is a grass roots organisation which does this.


A raffle was held at the WISA 20th Anniversary Gala Dinner, with all prizes being donated and funds raised to be used towards the setup of a charity. Further funds have been added already by SA Women’s Industry Network as part of its winding up process.

There is now more than $10,000 in the kitty to start-up the charity.  WISA intends that some of these funds will be used to establish the charity, including legal and accounting costs.


The registered charity will be independent from WISA with a separate management structure and governing board, operating under its own constitution. WISA would have a representative on the board.


There do not appear to be any charities operating in Australia with a similar purpose and scope.  There are international examples as well as Australian examples from other sectors.  Some of these are listed below




Mates in Construction


We need some help to choose a name – it must be memorable and representative of the charity.  For example: LAST – Lost at Sea Tragedies (used by Ireland).  Some suggestions so far:

  • SOLAS (Support on Loss at Sea)
  • LASTAUS (Lost at Sea Tragedies Australia)
  • L@SS (Loss at sea support)
  • Neptune Foundation
  • St Nicholas (patron saint of Fishers)
  • Homeward Bound 


  1. A small group of people to take it to the next level – particularly those with experience in setting up a charity, legal and accountancy skills.
  2. We need a high-profile patron who can champion the cause in the media, in the communities, with industry and with government.
  3. Some support for good advertising/awareness media profiling particularly in the initial stages once the charity is officially established.
  4. Additional suggestions for names for the charity.

If you are interested, please contact one of the people below:

Jayne Gallagher, Director at Large, WISA

Karen Holder, President, WISA

Heidi Mumme, Vice President, WISA

Linda Williams, Secretary, WISA