The crew of the rescue ship Danial Thain crew on return to Port Stephens after more than 11 hours at sea in treacherous conditions. Picture: Marine Rescue Port Stephens
The crew of the rescue ship Danial Thain crew on return to Port Stephens after more than 11 hours at sea in treacherous conditions. Picture: Marine Rescue Port Stephens

‘They were brave’: Australia’s 111 heroes honoured

From daring sea and fire rescues, to frightening encounters with armed assailants, the 2021 Australian Bravery Decorations List has recognised 111 people who responded to the worst of circumstances in the most courageous of ways.

The highest honour - the Star of Courage - was awarded to two men: one who was specifically trained to respond to emergencies, and one who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

British tourist Tom Jackson will be awarded posthumously for his bravery in trying to protect a fellow backpacker during a knife attack at the Home Hill Hostel near Townsville in 2016. The 30 year old died from injuries he sustained in the attack, as did the woman he was protecting, Mia Ayliffe-Chung.

 

Tom Jackson, who died while defending another backpacker in the horrific Home Hill Hostel knife attack in 2016. The British national has been honoured posthumously for his bravery.
Tom Jackson, who died while defending another backpacker in the horrific Home Hill Hostel knife attack in 2016. The British national has been honoured posthumously for his bravery.

 

Seventy-one-year-old Laurie Nolan from Marine Rescue Port Stephens, in New South Wales, will receive the Star of Courage for the role he played in the dramatic night-time attempted rescue of a racing yacht in a ferocious storm in 2016.

Mr Nolan was one of 16 operation volunteers recognised, with the retired sales and marketing manager receiving the top honour for his quick thinking in helping free trapped crew members when the rescue boat tipped over.

"We couldn't see a thing in front of us, behind us, to the side," he said. "We were wrestling with the boat in foul conditions."

 

 

When asked what went through his mind as the boat tipped over, Mr Nolan said: "I'm not a religious person so I wasn't praying, however I was thinking, 'oh my God, this is it'."

Mr Nolan said the crew's training and safety protocols "made the difference".

"Everyone knows what everyone's got to do," he said. "You know what your job is, you know what other people's job is and there's a great sense of reliance on people, particularly in serious situations such as we were in."

For other award recipients, there was no training: just quick thinking.

 

Laurie Nolan, who has received the Star of Courage in the Commonwealth Bravery Awards, 2021, for his role in a late night ship rescue in heavy seas off Port Stephens in 2016.
Laurie Nolan, who has received the Star of Courage in the Commonwealth Bravery Awards, 2021, for his role in a late night ship rescue in heavy seas off Port Stephens in 2016.

 

Ben Martin from Wonga Park in Victoria has been recognised for his courage in rescuing a young woman from a burning cabin in Port Fairy, while Luke Chilcott from Wangaratta has been honoured for confronting an armed man when a neighbours' domestic violence incident came unexpectedly and terrifyingly crashing into his own home. While the event ended in tragedy, with the armed man killing his wife before turning the gun on himself, Mr Chilcott's quick thinking helped save the neighbours' four children.

Governor-General David Hurley said the award recipients came from "all sorts of different backgrounds".

"None of them set out to be brave or receive an award - they were confronted with a situation and they acted," he said. "They put their own wellbeing at risk to help others. They were not only brave, they were selfless.

"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," the Governor-General said.

Originally published as 'They were brave': Australia's 111 heroes honoured


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