‘What if you don’t come home?’: Australia’s fishers take action to improve industry safety

02-Dec-2018 12:05 PM

“It’s always in the back of your mind. You talk about if anything happens. He always showed me what to do if the boat flips over or anything. How to get out... but, upside down everything is different.”

These are the words of Michael Williams, the man who swam more than 20 kilometers to get help after the fishing boat he was working on flipped. His skipper did not make it.

Now, in a joint industry and government initiative, the more than 11,000 men and women who work in Australia’s commercial fishing and aquaculture sectors can participate in an industry-led safety program, SeSafe.

The SeSafe project, sesafe.com.au, is designed to raise awareness and improve safety for Australia’s commercial fishers and aquaculturalists. At the heart of the program is a reminder to always ask themselves, “What if you don’t come home?”.

As part of the launch of the federal Parliamentary Friends of the Australian Seafood Industry, occurring today (Monday, December 3) at Parliament House, Canberra, SeSafe, in conjunction with Seafood Industry Australia (SIA), have launched a raw, emotive and honest clip featuring five Australian fishers who share their harrowing stories of survival, or open-up about the loss of a mate.

“I fell overboard one night in a gale, I could see the boat on the top of every wave and I tell you what, I was giving everything to catch that boat. I think eight fishermen have lost their lives off our coastline here in the last two years… right here off Bundaberg,” -Paul Crunske.

“SeSafe commenced earlier this year with the primary goal of raising awareness of, and improving the practice of safety, within the wild-caught and aquaculture sectors, Australia wide,” SeSafe Director Steve Eayrs said.

“The unique nature of this program is that it has been developed by industry, for industry.”

“SeSafe is a great example of industry and the federal government working together to address the critical issue of safety,” SIA CEO Jane Lovell said

“Safety is one of SIA, and the entire commercial fishing industries, top priorities and these sorts of initiatives are vital to keeping our fishers safe at sea. No matter the industry, everyone deserves to be safe at work and every family deserves their loved-ones to come home unharmed.”

“SeSafe provides an avenue to improve workplace safety through online, pre-sea training module,” Mr Eayrs said.

“The existing programs focus on emergency procedures such as abandoning ship and man-overboard. SeSafe complements this training through personal, boat and fishing safety. The SeSafe modules have been designed as complementary to the existing training and are already being used enthusiastically by industry.”

“The next morning came and his wife rang up and said they found Noel’s boat, but they didn’t find Noel. That’s what sunk me. That hit me really hard. I was just crying and going, ‘Oh not Noel, not Noel,’,” -Graham Stevenson.

“The most tragic memory I have of that entire period is of watching his daughter by his grave just crying her heart out... for her Dad,” -Margaret Stevenson.


SeSafe is jointly funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and the Australian fishing and aquaculture industry.