FOREIGN Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has praised the efforts of 20 Australians involved in the dramatic rescue of 12 boys and their football coach a cave in northern Thailand.
The Australians were part of an international rescue team headed by Thai navy SEALs that braved dangerous conditions to extract the final five members of the group from the flooded cave where they had been trapped for more than two weeks.
Adelaide doctor and diver Richard Harris was among those who played a key role in the rescue mission, having assessed the boys’ health and cleared the way for the daring operation to go ahead last Saturday.
Ms Bishop hopes to speak soon with Dr Harris, who has helped on previous rescue missions in Vanuatu, and his Perth-based dive partner about what has been an “extraordinary ordeal”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was also keen to personally thank all the Australians involved, with a possible reception in the works.
“We are absolutely delighted that our rescue team has been able to assist the Thai authorities and the international rescue teams to bring about this quite remarkable result,” Ms Bishop told Nine Network on Wednesday.
“This is what Australians do so well.
“Under our aid program, we have tragically many opportunities to support neighbours in times of crisis and so this is just another example of Australia being a good friend, a good neighbour, and helping out when it is needed.”
Among the 20 Australians sent to Thailand to help with the rescue were six Australian Federal Police divers and a navy clearance diver, as well as personnel from the Defence Department and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
They helped with the rescue of the final five members of the Wild Boars soccer team from the flooded Tham Luang cave system overnight, Australian time, by a team of Thai and international divers.
The other eight boys had been extracted from the cave on Sunday and Monday.
The astonishing rescue story has gripped Thailand and the world since the group was discovered trapped alive by two British cave divers on July 2, nine days after disappearing while exploring the cave system.
“We are hoping for a full recovery for all the boys and the coach and also all the boys and the coach and also all the rescue teams who have been through this extraordinary ordeal,” Ms Bishop said.
Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong described the rescue as a cause for “inspiration and optimism”.
“What a wonderful relief for parents, particularly for family and friends,” she told ABC radio.
“In a world where we see a lot of bad news, a lot of tragedy, isn’t it wonderful to see the power of cooperation and the lengths people will go to, the courage people will show, to help fellow human beings.”