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AO honours community heroes through Behind the Line project

Australian Open 2021 is honouring Australians who save and protect lives by featuring the voices of community heroes for the tournament’s Live Electronic Line Calling.

The Behind the Line project will use pre-recorded voices for the terms, ‘Out’, ‘Fault’ and ‘Foot Fault’ to acknowledge Australia’s community champions including front-line workers in the nation’s pandemic response, firefighters, surf life savers and other emergency services personnel.

Among the heroes chosen is a Victorian paramedic who contracted Covid-19 in 2020, a New South Wales SES volunteer who saved two people from floodwaters in January and a Queensland lifesaver who represents an entire patrol team which rescued seven people from a rip at the end of January.  

Ambulance Victoria paramedic Steve Gelagotis said being chosen to be a voice of electronic line calling at the Australian Open is an honour.

“It definitely wasn’t something I expected, but I see it as an honour to be able to represent Ambulance Victoria and have my voice featured in the line calling. The Australian Open is an iconic sporting event and I remember as a little kid, in front of Mum and Dad, I would sit in front of the TV and yell out the line calls in different accents to pretend I was a linesman. It is an extreme privilege to be part of the Australian Open this year,” Gelagotis said.

SES NSW Hunter Central Cluster Commander Simon Merrick dove into floodwaters with a harness attached in a swollen Hunter Valley river to rescue two people.

“The experience is one that I will never forget. To be able to help two people who were in a very dark space at the time and to be able to bring them to safety is a feeling that myself, the team and the other agencies that were there will not forget. To talk to those people once we go them to shore and the appreciation they were able to show, is what makes volunteering so special and why this country is so great,” Merrick said.

Kyal Thornton (pictured) from Tallebudgera Life Saving Club led a patrol of volunteers who rescued seven people who were caught in a rip on Australia Day with one swimmer needing resuscitation.

“To have my voice featured on the electronic line calling is me doing it on behalf of the whole patrol group. I think they all deserve to be recognised, they did a great job on the day and everyone went home safely,” Thornton said.

Heroes have been chosen from every state and territory and reflect unique aspects of Australian life. Other heroes featured include Dana Mitchell from Kangaroo Island in South Australia, which suffered the devastating impact of the 2020 bushfires, a Northern Territory volunteer, Reanna Sanders, who cooks and serves 100 free meals to people in need and a swimming instructor, Jackie Rousseau, who developed a free program in the ACT to prevent drownings of children whose family are unable to afford lessons. 

Australia’s busiest volunteer sea rescue service, Fremantle Sea Rescue from Western Australia is represented by skipper, David Hadlow and the efforts of Tasmania’s Fire Brigade Campania branch in bringing the community together during Covid-19 is acknowledged through second officer, Kate Gilham.

Implemented as part of the tournament’s COVIDSafe protocols, Live Electronic Line Calling has also reduced the number of people required onsite at Melbourne Park.

Live Electronic Line Calling is delivered through remote tracking cameras around the court, automatically sending the audio line calls in real time.