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Shark Attacks in Ballina Lennox Head Evans Head and Byron Bay

Shark Smart Living

Teaching first aid, emergency medicine and prehospital care on the far north coast of NSW, or the northern rivers as it is sometimes called, I am often asked about shark bites or attacks. I come from Ballina a small town at the mouth of the Richmond River and recently it is something that has been on my mind too. I am sure most of us have thought about sharks when swimming in our rivers or on our beaches, particularly with so many attacks or close encounters recently.

Shark attacks are a traumatic event that often has ripple effects beyond the initial trauma to the patient. Effects on those who witness the trauma and try to render first aid, the paramedics, lifeguards and emergency services workers who assist at the scene, the community fear and apprehension and the damage done to those who know and love the victim’s exacerbates the trauma and stress beyond the incredible trauma of the initial shark attack emergency itself.

In paramedic practice of emergency medicine, prevention is better than cure

Could I start by saying there is some great truth in the old proverb “prevention is better than cure.” It’s better to stop or reduce your risk of something happening in the first place rather than trying to repair the damage afterwards. With that in mind the NSW Department of Primary Industries has released some pretty common-sense guidelines, its common sense stuff but worth repeating here

  • Swim in groups
  • Swim between the flags and at a patrolled beach. The royal lifesaving society and lifeguards or lifesavers can give first aid on the beaches and do a fantastic job, many volunteering to watch over us, to monitor the situation
  • If you see a shark, tell the lifesavers or lifeguards on the beach
  • You should avoid having pets in the water with you
  • Remember that sharks may be around between sandbars or near steep drop-offs in the water
  • Dusk and dawn swimming should be avoided
  • Dolphins and sharks often feed together so don’t think just because you can see dolphins there will be no sharks about
  • And if you hear a shark alarm, leave the water immediately

And of course you could also download the SharkSmart (IOS) and Beachsafe (IOS and Android) apps to keep you informed and give you all the latest information. Remember to call an ambulance quickly on Triple 000, get them on the way to you quickly

Controlling bleeding is the key to survival

Good stuff to keep in mind over the long hot summer.  Shortly we will talk about how you treat shark bites. Bleeding control will be the key as there is only so much blood in the body and you need it to carry oxygen to the cells to survive.

Perhaps its time to look at a first aid course where “stop the bleed” training in the methods of control of bleeding could make all the difference to your children, friends or fellow surfers. Ballina First aid training courses are running now and can show you a range of new techniques like emergency bandages and life-saving CAT tourniquets that can conserve the vital blood we all need to survive. If you live in any of the towns along coast of the northern rivers of NSW, like Evans Head, Ballina, Lennox Head, Byron Bay, Brunswick Heads or Ocean Shores then we will have a First Aid course near you and can teach you some of the new first aid techniques that could save a life.

You could download a sharksmart poster here

A shark attack treatment pack based on military first aid equipment is set up to give you the tools to effectively control massive bleeding. Training is important to so try a local first aid course and ask them if they can teach you how to control the severe bleeding using CAT Tourniquets shown here.


Craig Nolan is an educator and manager with overall responsibility for the implementation of the International Paramedic College Group’s training, strategy, initiatives and expansion. Craig is a former Intensive Care Paramedic and Educator with The Ambulance Service of NSW and he is an active Committee member of Paramedics Australasia, the peak body for Paramedics in Australia and New Zealand.