School beach activities banned after shark attacks

The SA Education Department has banned all school beach activities after 32-year-old, Bridgette O'Shannessy was bitten by a shark on Friday.

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

The South Australian (SA) Education Department has banned all school beach activities after a shark attack on 10 November.

In response to this latest attack – the fourth shark attack, including two fatalities, at SA beaches this year – schools are prohibited from letting students engage in aquatic activities for the remainder of the final 2023 school term.

Bridgette O’Shannessy 32, was bitten by a shark while free-diving with her husband near the jetty at Port Noarlunga – a popular diving spot around 30 kilometres from the Adelaide CBD – on Friday.

She was taken to Flinders Medical Centre and treated for a bite to her face and was reported to be in a stable condition later that same day. A spokesperson for Flinders University, where Ms O’Shannessy is an environmental science honours student, said the university would be “making accommodations” to her studies and assessments while she recovers.

- Advertisement -

Explaining the ban to Adelaide ABC radio host, David Bevan, Chief Executive of the Education Department, Professor Martin Westwell said: “This has been building across the state with some shark attacks in the last few months”.

New measures needed to protect beachgoers

In addition to the school ban, daily aerial patrols of some South Australian beaches that normally begin on December 1 have been brought forward and will commence this Saturday, 18 November. But Surf Life Saving SA (SLSSA) and residents of seaside suburbs are urging authorities to consider new tactics to help protect swimmers as summer approaches. There are no shark nets or drum lines in place along the SA coastline.

SLSSA CEO Damien Marangon believes authorities should consider a “broader tracking, surveillance, and mitigation strategy”.
Mr Marangon is opposed to the decision to prohibit school students from aquatic activities for the rest of term four and says that, with forecasts predicting an extremely hot summer, the ban will mean “children are going to be deprived of water safety education that actually could be the thing that keeps them safe this summer”.

Banning schoolchildren from beach poses other safety issues

SLSSA figures revealed almost 4000 students from 47 SA schools are booked in for its term four programs, which typically run across five sessions.

- Advertisement -

“Withdrawing these aquatic ocean sessions, which have been safely run for decades, will not only jeopardise children’s future safety but it promotes a fear of the ocean,” Mr Marangon said.

Wilderness Escape Outdoor Adventures business manager Stacey Muchamore is also concerned about the ban and said excited school students were preparing to enter the water on Monday when the directive prohibiting them from entering the beach was announced by the SA Department of Education.

“Students were literally on the beach about to walk into the water in locations that are protected when they were told to stop … that they couldn’t do what they’d been looking forward to doing,” she said.

Share This Article
Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]