Retired Perth vet Craig Challen named joint 2019 Australian of the Year

Wangara vet Craig Challen has been named the joint 2019 Australian of the Year .
Wangara vet Craig Challen has been named the joint 2019 Australian of the Year .

TWO mates thrust into the global spotlight for their heroic roles in rescuing a Thai junior soccer team were crowned joint winners of Australian of the Year.

Retired Perth vet Craig Challen and South Australian anaesthetist Richard Harris took out their state awards for July’s daring salvage of 12 young boys and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand.

(Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)

The pair are the first joint recipients of the award.

Dr Challen believes the rescue effort was a metaphor for seizing opportunities in life.

“Australia is a place that presents us with so many opportunities. It’s up to all of us to step up and take it, give it a go,” he said.

Dr Challen was part of the international team that rescued 12 boys and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand.

The retired vet, who has dived some of Australia’s deepest wrecks and set depth records, was chosen for the mission based on his technical expertise.
Working 10 to 12 hours a day in dangerous conditions, he repeatedly risked his life as the children swam one-by-one through the dark and narrow flooded caves.
Despite admitting he initially thought the rescue would be too difficult to accomplish, he played a leading role in the successful mission.
Dr Challen was awarded the Star of Courage for his unwavering and selfless bravery following the rescue.
Dr Harris wants to use his platform to encourage kids to get outdoors and find their inner explorer.
“Maybe get a few grazed knees and stub their toes. Climb a tree, get off their screens and get outside,” Harris said.
Ahead of the ceremony in Canberra, Dr Harris said two good mates to sharing the award “would be tremendous”.
It’s been a whirlwind six months for the two cave divers receiving worldwide media attention, movie and book deals.