Schools across the Corangamite Shire were a sea of red on Friday as students and staff showed their support for two lifesavers who drowned on Easter Sunday.
Port Campbell hero lifesavers Ross and Andrew Powell were farewelled at a service in Timboon on Friday. A third lifesaver Phillip Younis involved in the rescue of a tourist near Port Campbell, is expected to make a full recovery.
Schools heeded Lifesaving Victoria president Paul James' suggestion that those not attending the funeral wear red on the day as a mark of respect to the families and show support for the Port Campbell Surf Lifesaving Club, whose colour is red.
Staff and students at schools including Timboon P12 School, Cobden Technical School, St Patrick's Primary School Camperdown, Mercy Regional College's Camperdown and Noorat campuses and Camperdown College all donned the shade in a show of solidarity.
A Surf Lifesaving Victoria spokesperson said participants across the country were encouraged to share photos of themselves wearing red and tag the Port Campbell Surf Lifesaving Club on social media.
All school principals said each of their schools had a strong representation at the funeral, with many of the staff and students having various connections with the Powell family and the surf club.
Cobden Technical School principal Rohan Keert said members of the school community were "deeply affected by the passing of the two men" and proceeds from a gold coin collection on Friday would go to the Powell family.
He said participation in the wear red day "was a no brainer for us", with a number of staff and students either members of the surf club or residents of Port Campbell.
St Patrick's school principal Michael McKenzie said its 300 students participated in the show of solidarity to let the club and family know they were in their thoughts. Proceeds from a gold coin collection will be given to the club to distribute as it sees fit.
"It's a sea of red," Mr McKenzie said. "There's shorts and shirts and hats and even red shoes," Mr McKenzie said.
"We've all been shocked. We've got staff that live down that way that are friends with the family.
"It's had an impact on us and there wouldn't be a person in Camperdown that doesn't go to Port Campbell beach in summer. It's our local beach and a way to say we're thinking of them.
"It's a tragedy," he said. "We know we can't change that but we can show our support for the family."
Mercy Regional College principal Berni Sinnott said they also collected a gold coin donation from the school's 440 students and staff members that will be donated to the family.
Mrs Sinnott said the college's two campuses were also a sea of red. "I haven't seen a kid that's got casual clothes on that's not in red somewhere," she said. "They've all embraced it.
"We've got quite a few kids who are involved in the surf club who don't necessarily come from Port Campbell, they're Camperdown kids that go down and participate in that. It's impacted a smaller group but there's definitely staff and students who are feeling it."
Timboon P12 School principal Davin Reid said its staff and students had also dressed in the shade.
"There's lots and lots of kids wearing red," Mr Reid said. "It's pretty much a sea of red at the moment."
Mr Reid said the community was feeling the loss and said Andrew Powell was a very active member of the Timboon school.
"He was part of our TAP agricultural program and he was a speaker here at the school," Mr Reid said.
"He was here all the time. A number of staff worked closely with him with that program and a number of teachers were involved with him at the Port Campbell Surf Lifesaving Club. It's impacted this community very significantly. It's very sad.
"Most of the school and most of the staff are going to be at the funeral today supporting the family. There's lots of kids away today.
Mr Reid said support services, including counselling, were provided in the days following the tragedy.
"We've had counsellors here for staff and students and the department (of education) provided us with extra support as well for the kids and the staff, and that will be ongoing after today," Mr Reid said.
Timboon P12 School posted the following tribute on its Facebook page on April 22, following the devastating events on Easter Sunday.
"We join the whole Timboon and Port Campbell community in mourning the loss of ex-student, TAP champion and general all round top bloke, Andy Powell.
"Andy was an engaging teacher who, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, would challenge students to solve problems, embrace technology and share his passion for agriculture and his community. He and Po will be sorely missed," it said.
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