Over the past few years there have been a number of comic posts and memes on the internet – particularly on Facebook – that have portrayed Australia as a particularly dangerous place full of savage and venomous creatures all bent on killing visitors. We’ve had a silly campaign that refers to koalas as “Drop Bears” and tried to fool American tourists or correspondents that they were real. And there has always been the legendary Bunyip.
I started to get fed up with it early on as it just seemed too silly for words to make out that a beautiful and peaceful place like Australia was dangerous. After all, who have I personally known who ever actually has been attacked by anything…
- A young man eaten by a shark in the 1990’s in the northwest of our state whilst on a surfing holiday. He had been a patient for years.
- Another pair of patients murdered in another state whilst on holiday. Required to provide forensic identification for one of the bodies.
- A friend who has just been bitten by a tiger snake this last week. Recovered.
- Another friend who nursed a venomous spider bite for weeks. Recovered. Two friends rolled over in a vehicle after striking a horse on a bush highway. Recovered. Vehicle written off.
- Acquaintance set upon by natives. Recovered.
- Numerous acquaintances and friends attacked by birds of prey in urban settings, sometimes right in front of me. Mostly just pecked, but occasional blood.
- Personal experience of dodging and eventually spearing a tiger snake at a bush race track.
- Numerous encounters with dugites in the local hospital car park. Non-confrontational but scary.
- Annual Squash The Redback Spiders Under The Workbench Festival. Place smells of insecticide for days.
This is without travelling anywhere, camping near dodgy waterholes, or annoying the sea life. I surrender the sea to the shark, the shoreline to the octopus, and the river to the jellyfish. So far none of them pester me in my bath and no snakes have entered the saloon bar of the Brisbane Hotel – even during Happy Hour.
I have also learned to read the signs when it comes to dining at the roadhouses on the Nullarbor – to avoid food poisoning or physical violence you must remove your hat or cap, avoid eye contact, and take your seat on a Virgin or QANTAS airliner passing above the roadhouse at about 35,000 ft. You needn’t tip.
Fortunately here in Western Australia we are spared polar bears, panthers, and hippopotami in the rural areas. South Perth Zoo does have these creatures but the only injury likely there comes at the turnstile and snack bar.