WATCH: Shark attack survivor tells her story

WHITSUNDAY shark attack survivor Justine Barwick will tonight share her journey of resilience and recovery on Australian Story.

The Tasmanian woman had just dived into the water about 5pm on September 19 last year when she was mauled by a tiger shark at Cid Harbour.

She had been sailing around the Whitsundays on a yacht with her husband Craig and friend, who both watched on in horror.

Justine Barwick with her husband Craig in the wake of a shark attack in the Whitsundays region last year.
Justine Barwick with her husband Craig in the wake of a shark attack in the Whitsundays region last year.

"I basically, saw a lot of blood in the water, Justine with the blood, and a tiger shark. And at that point I knew stuff was serious," Craig told ABC TV's Australian Story.

It was the first of three shark attacks at Cid Harbour between September and November 2018 - Hannah Papps was bitten 24 hours later followed by Dr Daniel Christidis, who was fatally attacked.

"The weather was meant to come in so we decided we would go to Cid Harbour because it is such a protected anchorage. We got the anchor down probably about 4.45pm," Justine said.

They turned off all the electronics and went to go for a swim.

"I just dived straight in and the shark got me just as my head broke the surface of the water. I knew because of the force, it couldn't have been anything else but a shark," Justine said.

"People say to me, I bet you wish you could go back in time and not dive into the water that day'. And I do, I wish it had never happened - but I have learnt that I'm stronger than I ever thought I was and I'm not sure I'd be willing to give that up.

"When I could first talk I said to Craig, 'I'm never getting in the ocean again, you're not getting in the ocean again, the girls are never allowed to swim in the ocean again'. And he said, 'yes dear'."

But, as time went on, Justine said she decided that was not how she wanted to live her life.

"Accidents happen. I was bitten by a shark. That's sad, but it happened," Justine said.

In September this year Justine returned to the region to thank Mackay Base Hospital staff, who helped with her recovery.

 

Shark attack survivor Justine Barwick said the face of Mackay Base Hospital Dr Tina Moriaty is imprinted in her memory.
Shark attack survivor Justine Barwick said the face of Mackay Base Hospital Dr Tina Moriaty is imprinted in her memory.

And the Whitsundays still hold a special space for Justine and Craig.

"It would upset me to think of our experience having a negative impact on the region," she said.

"It's a beautiful part of the world."

The attacks sparked fear and ignited a heated debate about shark control in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which still continues.

Weeks ago British tourist Alistair Raddon had his foot bitten off and his mate Danny Maggs was seriously mauled while the pair were swimming in Hook Passage.

 

A tiger shark is retrieved from Cid Harbour after being caught in the drum lines following two attacks this past year.
A tiger shark is retrieved from Cid Harbour after being caught in the drum lines following two attacks this past year.

In the wake of the debate, Justine Barwick remains resolute about maintaining a positive attitude and in this exclusive episode she tells her story of survival and recovery accompanied by interviews from her rescue team and home video of her rehabilitation.

"I've learnt that a reasonably unattractive character trait like being stubborn can actually play to your advantage when time are really tough," Justine said.

"At the end of the day I was a tourist and I suffered a misadventure."

Australian Story's 'Out of the Blue' airs tonight on ABC TV and ABC iview.


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