Author of the memoir The Girl Who Lived, Susan Berg, is turning tragedy into hope. Having been justifiably terrified of water for 30 years, after a boating accident that took the lives of her parents and brother, she’s jumping in the deep end to raise money for charity.

I was 15 years of age when I went on a fishing trip in Western Port Bay with my mum, dad and brother, Bill. It was a fabulous family outing, until the boat suddenly took on water and sank. It was late in the evening and the closest land was nearly four kilometres away. Dad struggled to swim in the freezing water, so Bill swam over to help him. I told Mum to keep up with me, but she couldn’t. I knew we had a better chance of survival if I went ahead for help.

I have fiercely avoided water for 30 years – petrified of the dangers – up until now.

On 7 January I will face my fear of water and swim the world’s largest open water event: the Lorne Pier to Pub. I agreed to take on the challenge nearly 12 months ago as a way of raising funds for domestic violence. I accepted the challenge (albeit hesitantly), believing that the challenge would contribute to my ongoing journey of self-healing, and would hopefully encourage other women to confront and overcome their own fears.

It has taken considerable time for me to prepare both mentally and physically. The first four months of my training were particularly difficult as I struggled with severe anxiety. I persevered however, training at sunrise every morning with a coach out in the bay. This continued even throughout winter – another challenge in itself!

I am now at a point in my training where I feel confident that I can complete the Lorne Pier to Pub challenge and I look forward to helping women and children escaping from family violence whilst also facing and overcoming my greatest fear.

Support Susan in her endeavours to raise money for McAuley Community Services for Women at: