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Thursday, April 15, 2021

What does it take to win an Australian bravery award?

One hundred years since he rescued a man from a well in Temora, New South Wales, the late Henry Herbert Grant was one of 111 people added to the Australian Bravery Decorations List by Governor-General David Hurley today, 23 March.

Saving people from fires, car crashes, violent incidents and treacherous waters were dominant themes among descriptions of the incidents that warranted an award.

The Governor-General said the stories and deeds of those included were remarkable and inspiring.

“Today’s recipients come from all sorts of different backgrounds, are of different ages and were confronted with very different situations,” he said.

Governor-General David Hurley says the awards recognise individuals who choose to act in a moment of danger or peril. Image: Kerrie Brewer

“None of them set out to be brave or receive an award – they were confronted with a situation and they acted.

“They put their own well-being at risk to help others.

“They were not only brave, they were selfless.”

The highest honour, the Star of Courage, was awarded to two people.

Laurie Nolan of Nelson Bay won the star for his “conspicuous courage” during an attempt to rescue a racing yacht in dangerous seas off the coast of Port Stephens in 2016.

Mr Nolan was one of seven who volunteered to head out in cyclonic conditions after dark to aid a crew of distressed yachtsmen.

The rescuers found themselves in serious trouble when their boat was tipped by a wall of water.

After regaining his feet, Mr Nolan saved his mates tangled in safety lines that would have dragged them under, freed another crewman pinned to the deck, and helped restart the engine to head back to safety.

The race yacht crew returned to shore in a life raft.

The second Star of Courage belongs to the late Tom Jackson, formerly of the United Kingdom, who died trying to save a woman who was attacked by a man with a knife in a Queensland hostel in 2016.

Mr Jackson was administering first aid to the gravely injured woman, who paramedics could not save, when the assailant located the pair and inflicted fatal wounds on Mr Jackson.

Governor-General Hurley said the families of those who died because of their brave actions should know that “Australia is both grateful and proud of their actions”.

“These awards recognise the courageous actions of individuals who, in a moment of danger or peril, chose to act.

“They were brave, they did not hesitate, and their actions made a difference.”

Seven groups received a Bravery Citation, for actions including preventing a distressed man from torching his car while inside it, stepping up to save a man being attacked with a hunting knife, and swimming to drag people from croc infested waters.

More than half the people added to the list were from New South Wales, a total of 60.

Twenty-seven went to Queenslanders, 13 to Victorians, three to Northern Territorians, one to a South Australian and two to folk from the United Kingdom.

Although the home state or territory of some winners was omitted for privacy reasons, it appeared no one from Tasmania, Western Australia or the ACT made today’s list.

Just nine of the people on the list were women – less than 10% – according to Canberra Weekly analysis of documents provided by the Governor-General’s office. 

The independent Australian Bravery Decorations Council makes recommendations to the Governor-General regarding who should be recognised and at what level of award.

Two Australian Bravery lists are announced every year.

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