Thai cave rescue divers pay visit to Wesley College

Thai cave rescue divers pay visit to Wesley College

THE dual Australians of the Year dived deep into their Thai cave rescue experience to impart life advice to about 500 young students at Wesley College on Friday.

Adelaide anaesthetist Richard Harris and retired Gnangara vet Craig Challen became household names after their involvement in rescuing 12 boys and their soccer coach from Tham Luang cave in Thailand last year.

In their first school visit together since being awarded the title in January, Dr Harris said the whole point of being Australians of the Year was to be able to inspire children and for them to find their inner explorer.

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“The more they can get outside and discover the world around them, the more often they’ll challenge themselves,” he said.

“This is the start, hopefully, of more similar functions where we can actually talk to kids and tell them about our adventures and inspire them to do something similar.”

Dr Richard Harris and Dr Craig Challen at Wesley College in South Perth. Picture: David Baylis

The Year 6 students were from Victoria Park Primary, Notre Dame Catholic Primary, Manning Primary, Collier Primary, Kewdale Primary, Wesley College and Ursula Frayne Catholic College.

The visit was part of a busy day for the national heroes organised by Auspire, the Australia Day Council of WA.

It started with an Inspiring Australia breakfast function in King’s Park and included lunch with Wesley College student leaders and mentors after the school talk.

Dr Harris said his relationship with Mr Challen as long-time ‘dive buddies’ established the trust needed for them to work in the difficult cave rescue environment.

“You kind of understand each other underwater because you can’t talk underwater although people have accused us of being able to,” he said.

Dr Challen said when they got involved in the cave rescue, there was no time to build a team.

“We had some vigorous conversation while working out the plan and it wouldn’t have worked if there wasn’t already that respect there,” he said.

Dr Craig Challen, Year 6 Wesley College students Liam Wright (11), Lukas Willinge (11), Ethan Branchi (11) and Dr Richard Harris at Wesley College in South Perth. Australians of the Year visit Wesley College. Picture: David Baylis

“All the other British divers, we either knew them well or knew of them really well.

“Luckily, that was all in place and I think that was a major part of the rescue being a success.”

Reflecting on the immediacy of the rescue, Dr Challen said he wanted children to know a crisis or test could happen in their life at any time.

“When that happens, there’s not going to be time to prepare for it,” he said.

“Do hard things now and get them used to being subjected to a test so when that arrives, they’re ready for it.”