Since 1960 Australia has celebrated the achievement and contribution of eminent citizens through the Australian of the Year Awards.
Dr Craig Challen SC OAM of Wangara DC, Western Australia and Dr Richard Harris SC OAM of Adelaide, South Australia were named 2019 Australians of the Year for their heroic efforts as part of an international rescue mission to save 12 boys from flooded caves in Thailand.
Dr Harris is a diver with 30 years' experience and a specialist in aeromedical retrieval. He has previously participated in complex diving recoveries, appeared in National Geographic documentaries and, in 2015, was recognised for his outstanding contribution to cave exploration. In 2017 he was awarded The Australasian Technical Diver of the Year.
Dr Challen has dived some of Australia's deepest wrecks and has set depth records in diving, including diving to 194 metres in the Pearse Resurgence, New Zealand, in 2011. He was awarded Technical Diver of the year 2009 at the Australian technical diving conference Oztek.
The pair are long-time friends and diving buddies who were about to depart on a cave-diving holiday when they received the call for help with the delicate rescue mission in Thailand. Putting their own lives at risk and working under great pressure, the pair played crucial roles in the rescue.
They were both awarded the Star of Courage for unwavering and selfless bravery following the successful rescue of the trapped soccer team.
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