Port Macquarie’s Natalie Smith and Dale Carr say their decision to appear on a national television series was driven by a desire to help others overcome their own traumas.
The pair featured on Monday night’s Channel 9 series This Time Next Year.
Natalie and Dale are members of The Bite Club, a peer support group for people affected by shark attacks.
In 2014 Natalie’s 18-year-old cousin Daniel was attacked while spearfishing off Port Douglas. He did not survive his injuries. Dale suffered severe lacerations after his encounter with a Great White Shark off Watonga Rocks the following year.
Dale said they both saw the opportunity of appearing on the show and making a pledge to overcome their fear of sharks as a positive step
“The sole reason we did the TV show is because we know there are people in Australia who suffer as much as us but they don’t know how to resolve it,” he said.
“In Natalie’s case, she was working on her Marine Science and Management degree. What she loved doing was taken from her and she needed some way of getting that back.
“For me, I now choose when I get back in the water. It is not the highest priority to me. What is important are, family, friends, work and then surfing.
“We have found that if you bottle it up, you lose. Shark attack trauma builds up and compounds itself. The only way to release that is to talk to like-minded people.
“I define trauma as being placed in an uncomfortable situation where there is change that you cannot cope with. That’s trauma.
“This TV show is about saying to people that, yes we suffered trauma, but we are doing okay. Trauma is something that everyone deals with. What we are saying in this show is that you should find someone like-minded, set a goal and achieve that goal and be proud you stepped outside your comfort zone.”
It was really good to recognise that normal Australians can make a pledge and overcome a fear, and do something extraordinary. This is about normal people overcoming their anxieties and fears.
Natalie was in the third year of her degree when Daniel was attacked.
“It was very hard to get back in the water to go diving,” she said.
“I had a lot of anxiety building up and went through a really rough stage until I found Dale and The Bite Club, which is for survivors, family members and first responders.
“The circle of friends included The Bite Club founder Dave Pearson, Kev Young, the father of Zac Young, and a few other survivors.
“We work through the shared experience and kinda bounce off each other.
“But I also realised I needed to do something positive too. I was about to graduate and needed to move forward.
“About that time we were approached via The Bite Club to see if we would do the show.”
The pair used the pledge – this time next year we will conquer our fear of sharks.
Dale says the shared experience of the show has been great.
“It was really good to recognise that normal Australians can make a pledge and overcome a fear, and do something extraordinary. This is about normal people overcoming their anxieties and fears,” he said.
“We are all bound by traumatic circumstances so it is up to you how you resolve that. We chose to band together and to become stronger because of it. This is a journey not an end result.
“Just because we went diving with sharks (at the Manly Aquarium as part of the show) doesn’t overcome that fear. It just means we’ve got someone beside us who understands.”
This Time Next Year screens on Monday nights on Channel 9.