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The day that changed Amr Sheiba’s perspective on rock fishing in Australia lives as vividly in his mind as though it happened yesterday.

The Egyptian expat grew up around water and fishing before moving to Australia, but familiarity, as he soon found out, didn’t mean he was equipped to deal with the unique and sometimes treacherous ocean conditions in his new homeland.

“I went fishing with my friends, we didn’t have much planning,” he recalled.

“When we arrived, it was really windy, but when the wind settled we decided to cast our line.

“I caught a fish and I wanted to talk about it with my friends. I turned around, and that was my mistake.

“At that moment, a big wave, maybe three metres, took me over and threw me maybe six to eight metres on the rocks. At that moment I was really scared about hitting my head.

“I was lucky that day I didn’t lose my life.”

As luck would have it, Amr has allowed his dance with destiny to be a lesson – not just for his local community, but for the benefit of tens of thousands of rock fishers across NSW.

“Back home we didn’t really think much about safety, so we didn’t have life jackets,” he said.

“Here, you need to be more careful, do your homework, read the waves, the swell, don’t go alone, and also go at the right time, during the day, wearing a life jacket.

“It will save your life.”

Amr’s story was featured in a premiere short film event hosted by Surf Life Saving NSW on Monday 20 June at Canterbury Leagues Club, attended by more than 200 members of Sydney’s diverse communities.

The Multicultural Drowning Prevention Short Film Launch showcased five unique, personal stories – three of which are already available on the Beach and Coastal Safety Resource Hub, and two, including Amr’s, were screened publicly for the first time on Monday night.

Statistics show that multicultural communities are the most at risk of drowning on our coastline. Tragically, rock fishing deaths have increased in NSW over the last year, with nine people losing their lives.

Surf Life Saving NSW has been working on the series for several years, thanks to NSW Government funding support targeting drowning prevention among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities. Surf Life Saving’s Community Education team was first inspired to explore innovative ways to reach this large, multicultural demographic in 2020.

The film premiere brought together representatives from multicultural, migrant and refugee groups from across the state to focus attention on the challenges, barriers and opportunities that exist to improve water safety education among diverse communities. Also attending were the NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure and Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience Steph Cooke.

“This series of short films features the voices of real people from our diverse, cultural communities, to share personal and common experiences of the beach and water with others within their own communities,” said Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steve Pearce.

“We understand the vital importance in involving and empowering our communities in educating themselves and appreciate the place that story telling has across many cultures and we’ve been able to create meaningful, relevant and relatable stories. These stories will form part of a broader campaign and will be promoted across our communities and networks in multiple languages.

“We hope that these stories will support our multicultural communities to be safer on our beaches and coastlines and to understand how simple actions can keep them and their families safe.

For access to all multilingual resources go to

View our full in-language beach & coastal safety pages.

Key national statistics 

  • 22% of overseas-born resident drownings occurred at the beach
  • 41% of overseas-born residents were classified as poor swimmers
  • 48% of coastal drownings were people born overseas
  • 28% of coastal drownings were people of Asian origin
  • Over 90% of coastal drownings are men.
  • Average of 17 rock-fishing deaths every year in Australia.


Tuesday 21 June 2022