North Coast

Forster Surf Life Saving Club will host a community information session after the fatal shark attack.

A Community Information Session will be held at the Forster Surf Life Saving Club on Thursday 3 June 2021 from 3.30 pm to 7 pm following the fatal shark attack that occurred on Nine Mile Beach recently.

The event, hosted by Surf Life Saving NSW, the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) and the Department of Primary Industries will offer the community of Forster-Tuncurry an opportunity to come together to hear experts talk about beach safety, shark mitigation strategies, shark behavior and the effects of trauma as well as seek mental health support following this traumatic incident.

Community members are invited to drop in at any time or attend one of the presentations by RAMHP and the DPI at 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm on Thursday.
The mental well-being of communities has been identified as a priority following these incidents.
RAMHP spokesperson Matthew Milne said tragedies like these can create a high level of trauma within communities and the ongoing effects can last for some time after the newspaper headlines have disappeared.

“We know that many residents of coastal communities see the beach as their happy place where they can de-stress and unwind, but when that place becomes a place of fear, people’s mental health can suffer as a result,” said Matthew.
People who have been traumatized can experience a wide range of emotions.
“There is no ‘normal’ way of experiencing trauma because everyone is different and most people will start to feel like themselves again with the help and support of friends or family.
“However, some people may need the help of a mental health professional and RAMHP is well-positioned within communities like Forster-Tuncurry to provide links when necessary,” said Matthew.

Surf Life Saving Lower North Coast Duty Officer Brian Wilcox responded to assist with the incident last week and agrees that many locals and the surf life-saving community are in shock.
“Our role is to protect and save lives so when tragedies like this occur it deeply affects our volunteer lifesavers,” said Brian. “We have our own member welfare support systems in place but it helps
enormously to come together as a community so people can air their fears and concerns and know they are not dealing with this alone.”
Matthew Milne added that it’s not just people who were directly involved in the incident who are at risk of experiencing trauma.
“Sometimes people who hear or read about an incident can be affected without being directly involved. This is called vicarious trauma and is very common after high profile incidents within close communities.”

For more information contact Matthew Milne from the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program on 0437 989 044.
Telephone support services:

• Disaster Welfare Assistance Line 1800 018 444 (open 8.30 am – 4.30 pm and staffed with counseling support)
• NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511
• Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
• Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
• Beyond Blue Support Service 1300 224 636
• Lifeline 13 11 14
• MensLine 1300 78 99 78