House debates

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Constituency Statements

Sharpe, Mr Andrew

10:09 am

Photo of Rick WilsonRick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today with a heavy heart, after seeing the front page of Tuesday's Kalgoorlie Miner newspaper. In magnificent blue-green hues, an aerial photograph depicted a circle of over 200 Esperance surfers bidding an ocean farewell to avid local surfer and family man Andrew Sharpe, who was tragically taken by a great white shark on 9 October. The beach and several kilometres of car parks were filled with those paying their respects to a much-loved mate and a valued community member. Andrew was an experienced surfer, with over 40 years in the water. I take this opportunity to convey my heartfelt condolences to his loving family, who understood his passion for surfing and for the Esperance ocean environment. Despite their grief, his family have expressed their gratitude for the actions of his mates who shared the break that day, the first responders, the police and emergency services, and the volunteers who joined the search—which, sadly, did not recover Andrew's body. I would like to add my thanks to those mentioned above and to the entire Esperance community, who have seen this happen far too many times.

There have been five attacks in this area in the past seven years. Earlier this year the diving community lost one of their own. Esperance Dive Club president and avid underwater photographer Gary Johnson was taken by a great white shark while out diving with his wife just off Cull Island. At the time, they were both wearing electronic shark-deterrent devices and were taking photos, not fish. His remains have never been found. After each tragic event, the Esperance community bands together not only to support those who are grieving but to call for more to be done to mitigate the risk posed by sharing their pristine waters with great white sharks.

I take this opportunity to mention, in particular, the Esperance Ocean Safety and Support Group. Comprised of commercial and recreational divers and fishermen, surfers and swimmers, sailors and scientists, they share the experience of the Esperance waters and their encounters with great white sharks. This group are proactive, conducting ocean safety information sessions and shark attack first aid courses for their community. They are also contributing to the greater science of great white sharks through the deployment of their own VR2 receivers, which monitor tagged sharks' visitations to Esperance beaches. This group have spent years making representations to all levels of government, working on a strategy that will help protect their community of ocean users long into the future. I thank them for their efforts and stand willing to assist wherever I can in helping prevent further injury and loss of life due to great white shark interactions.

To the family and friends of Andrew Sharpe, I reiterate my sadness at hearing of another life lost in such tragic circumstances and extend my sincere condolences.