Exemplary alumnus wins bravery award – and SA Australian of the Year

Flinders alumnus Dr Richard Harris OAM was presented with a prestigious bravery award and an Order of Australia medal in July 2018 for his key role in rescuing the young soccer team trapped in a flooded Thai cave.

**Update – Dr Richard Harris has been awarded 2018 SA Australian of the Year at a ceremony on 1 November 2018. He received a standing ovation as he received the award from South Australian Governor Hieu Van Le. The 2018 Australian of the Year will be announced on 25 January 2019.

Dr Richard Harris, an anaesthetist who completed his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at Flinders University in 1988, together with his dive partner Craig Challen, were described as ‘linchpins’ and ‘instrumental’ to the mission that saw all twelve boys and their coach safely retrieved from the Tham Luang cave in Thailand over an 18-day rescue operation in early July.

The pivotal role played by the Flinders graduate received extensive attention around the world, as did his presentation of the Star of Courage award on 24 July 2018, which is the second-highest Australian bravery honour and recognises “acts of conspicuous courage in circumstances of great peril.”

An aeromedical consultant and anaesthetist for the SA Ambulance Service’s medical retrieval service, Dr Harris has also worked with AusAID in Vanuatu and contributed his diving, photography and medical expertise as a member of crews for television documentaries, feature films and diving projects around the world.

Dr Harris’ responsibilities in the complex rescue mission included assessing the boys’ health, advising on extraction methods, deciding on the order of evacuation, administering sedatives to ensure they would not panic during their journey out and assisting them enroute. He was the last person to leave the cave.

The anaesthetist, whose father tragically passed away during the mission, was applauded for his expertise in medicine and cave diving together with his integrity, bravery, humility and his positive, comforting demeanour which helped to calm the boys and optimise their mental strength throughout the rescue.

In accepting his award and medal, Dr Harris emphasised the efforts of the team – “We’re not quite sure why the spotlight has shone on us as a pair… but we just need to get back to work and stop my head swelling and start to relax.”

Dr Harris is a shining example of the Flinders University values of integrity, courage, innovation and excellence and the University is proud to name his as a member of our stellar alumni community.

See also ABC News item.


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