Story by Vic Leto, image courtesy of Marius
Last Wednesday 16th September The Lennox Wave was invited to take part in one of Australia’s most popular discussion forums. The team from SBS Television’s Insight program came to Lennox Head to film an episode. The topic: sharks.
Insight producers were doing something they rarely do— packing up and travelling to an out-of-town location, inviting locals to participate, and setting up a makeshift studio outside the technological safety zone of the SBS studio.
They chose as their location, the upstairs venue at the Lennox Head Hotel, with its perfect picture postcard backdrop of breaking waves across a stunning blue Pacific Ocean.
Guests prominent in the discussion included some brave shark survivors, heroic rescuers and witnesses, Ballina Mayor David Wright, representatives from Surf Life Saving (Scott McCartney and Gary Meredith), Department of Primary Industries, fishing stakeholders, marine and shark experts and Air T&G Helicopters. The wider audience of about thirty was then made up of all types, ages and backgrounds of local surfers and other ocean goers including Neil Kennedy, Don Munro, Colin Cooksy, Nick Mercer, John Heaton, Steve Walsh and Cliff Corbett (just to name a few).
Some topics covered included: possible contributing factors to increased shark activity, why we are suddenly a ‘Shark Hot-Spot’ (Or have we always been one?), public safety, current and future mitigation attempts, old preventative methods such as nets versus new emerging technologies, the attitudes to cull or conserve, and finally the financial and human cost.
Listening to Craig Ison’s account of his recent battle for survival at Evans Head to fight off a Great White shark that took hold of him and would not let go was compelling. Jabez Reitman also recounted his incident in February surfing Seven Mile Beach where he drove himself to hospital after being bitten by a Bull Shark. Somehow these two characters managed to add a touch of humour to the conversation and raise a few chuckles amongst the audience.
But faces in the audience did turn grim when witnesses shared their accounts and the disturbingly sad realities that there are very serious consequences of shark attack. The fact is, it is gruesome. Be it a fatal attack or the stories of survivors, their family, friends, rescuers, witnesses and others involved and even a portion of the community, can carry lifetime traumatic emotional and psychological scars.
All through filming host Jenny Brockie showed why she is such a respected journalist, continually objectively guiding the crossfire of passionate opinions and heated attitudes and making it into a logical discussion and calm debate.
At the end of filming, David Wright praised Insight producers for seeking to offer a balance of opinions and not focussing on the media frenzy and sensationalism our region seems to have inherited associated with the word ‘Shark’.
The program will air at 8.30pm on SBS Tuesday 29th September. It will also be repeated at various times on SBS One. It will be uploaded to SBS website (after the first broadcast), SBS On Demand, YouTube, iTunes and will be shown on the Australian Network which is broadcast on various channels throughout the Asia Pacific.