Boats on the Burnett River during the 2010 floods

Men awarded for brave actions in 2010 floods


TWO men who risked their lives helping to secure vessels along the flooded Burnett River in December 2010 have been honoured with a Group Citation for Bravery.

John Schott and Ian Willett were both named as recipients of the award for their efforts.

Mr Willett said the memories of the 2010 flood were still vivid two years on but he was humbled by the award.
"It was very scary at the time," he said.

"But there were more people than me helping during the floods."

On holiday at the time on his boat The Blue Pearl, Mr Willett spoke of the terrifying early hours of December 30, 2010 when the owners of a catamaran were attempting to evacuate.

A  large tree floated under the vessel and took hold of the catamaran's anchor and chain.

"There was nothing worse than going down a river on a catamaran backwards with your anchor down underneath you with a log on it," he said.

"That is how I got pulled into it because they came flying past me at about 12 to 15 knots."

Mr Willett said he operated a dinghy with another boat owner, to help navigate the catamaran, before the owner was forced to cut the anchor prior to reaching the ferry crossing area.

"We were getting too far down the river where it was getting too dangerous," he said.

"We were coming up to rocks and other boats so it was just a matter of dumping what we had and doing the best we could do."

Mr Willett said he helped about 25 boats during the tumultuous floods and there was a strong sense of camaraderie.

"We all knew each other pretty well," he said.

"And I had lived in Bundaberg for 10 years before then."

Now living in Airlie Beach, Mr Willett said his heart sank as he looked on with horror at the carnage and destruction left in the wake of the 2013 floods.

"I rang the people I knew down in Bundaberg and told them to get out," he said.

Bundaberg Mayor Mal Forman said the brave actions of Mr Schott and Mr Willett were just one example of courage shown by many during the floods.

"True character and bravery is tested in times of great adversity and I believe that these men are a great example of the generous and brave spirit of our region," Cr Forman said.

"I, alongside my fellow councillors and the rest of the region, commend Mr Schott and Mr Willett for their actions during the 2010/2011 floods."

Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett said it exemplified the efforts of hard-working men and women at the time and he had no doubts that there would be recipients from the 2013 floods in the future.

"Congratulates to them because we know they didn't do this for an award," he said.

He said of the 2013 flood heroes: "Hopefully in the near future we'll be able to celebrate some of those achievements."


TWO men who helped secure moving vessels on the flooded Burnett River in December 2010 have been awarded a Group Citation for Bravery.

John Schott and Ian Willett took on a number of brave actions during the floods, including re-anchoring boats to stop them rushing down the river. 

In the early hours of December 30, 2010, following several days of rain the Burnett River experienced major flooding.   

The owners of a catamaran were attempting to evacuate when a large tree floated under the vessel and took hold of the anchor and chain. 

They were unable to manoeuvre their vessel as it travelled backwards in the strong current. 

When the stricken vessel passed Paddy's Island, John Schott and Ian Willett motored a 5hp dinghy into the swift current to reach it. 

When one of the men boarded the vessel the other man used the dinghy to push and steer the catamaran from side to side to avoid it hitting other boats. 

When anchor equipment from the rescue dinghy failed, the owner of the catamaran was forced to cut its anchor chain free from the attached tree. 

After gaining control, the vessel was able to set another anchor about 40 seconds prior to reaching the dangerous Ferry Crossing area.

Prior to this, during daylight hours, the two men had taken rescue boats along the swollen river where many vessels had broken loose of their moorings.

They re-anchored to them to stop them from rushing down the river.

For their actions, the recipients are recognised by the award of the Group Citation for Bravery approved by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

"This year marks the thirty-eighth anniversary of the Australian honours system, which since its establishment has grown in prestige to represent the highest level of recognition that can be accorded for attainment of outstanding achievement and service in national life," Ms Bryce said. 

"Today's announcement of national bravery awards recognises the heroic actions of those amongst us who have placed the safety and lives of others before their own.  We are privileged to have such role models in our society, and it is an honour to be able to recognise their acts of selfless bravery and thank them publicly for their brave actions."

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