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Taking a bite of freedom

Opinion

Taking a bite of freedom

Sami Muirhead is torn between allowing her children some joyous fun and protecting them from menacing marine creatures Australia is known for.

Sharks: love them or loathe them, they have long fascinated humans and I hold the prehistoric creatures in awe. But would you let your kids swim in our canals and rivers?

I have sparked a debate with my friends and family over this quandary. Is it safe or is it playing Russian roulette with shark numbers so large they are reportedly ‘teeming’ under the waterways?

I had a rare parenting win a few weeks ago when we went to a friend’s jetty off a Buddina canal home. We took blow-up floats, tied ropes around the inflatables and attached them to the pontoon. The kids forgot their device screens and spent hours jumping off the jetty onto the floats and slipping into the river. They splashed. They were full of joy. And it was joyous to watch.

It was not sunrise or sunset but mid-afternoon. There wasn’t a grey shadow or menacing fin in sight. I showed mum some photos of our bellyflopping bliss and her reaction was one of horror. Mum claims it is madness to let the kids swim in the river. I said to her that we all grew up swimming in that exact same spot, and we all lived to tell the tale.

Fast forward 40 years and I know I wrap my kids up in bubble wrap far too often and far too many times a week. But this is the world we live in. I was proud when we went rogue and let the kids just be kids in the canal. But my mother is wise in the way of the world and her words kept haunting me.

So, I asked around. Simone said: “No way I would ever let my kids swim in canals. Eeek!” Sian summed it up in two words: “Hells no!” Maree sent me an article about our canals teeming with sharks and says we should stick to the pool and leave the canals for the fish. Sil and Gail said: “Go for it and keep swimming in the canals.” And Zarsha sent me video proof of her family catching 20 small sharks in the space of an hour off Mooloolaba just last week. They were tagged and released but the videos are extraordinary viewing – it is almost like watching Sharknado because the sharks are being pulled in so quickly and frequently.

Studies are underway to try to determine just how many sharks we have in our canals. But the superstitious side of me can no longer allow my kids to swim in the wild. The last thing I need is my mum telling me: “I told you so”.

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Sami Muirhead is a radio announcer, blogger and commentator. For more from Sami tune into Mix FM.

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