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My experience as a 2019 Australian of the Year- Dr Richard Harris SC OAM

Posted on July 16 2019


Dr Richard Harris SC OAM, 2019 Australian of the Year

Dr Richard Harris SC OAM from South Australia and Dr Craig Challen SC OAM from Western Australia are the 2019 Australians of the Year for their heroic efforts as part of an international rescue mission to save 12 boys from flooded caves in Thailand.

The following is a guest post from Dr Richard Harris SC OAM- 2019 Australian of the Year- read about Dr Harris here

With half of my 12 months as joint Australian of the Year gone, it’s a good time to take stock of how this extraordinary adventure is playing out. Nobody was more surprised than Craig and me when we were announced as winners in Canberra back in January this year. Although the nominees were all warned about the media show and the attention that would follow the announcement, I was still taken by surprise by the interest that came our way. And six months later it barely seems to have slowed down!

 I guess everyone’s experience is unique, and our story which really started with the Thai cave rescue just over 12 months ago, seems to be a tale that plenty of Australians are keen to hear. This has given us an amazing opportunity to travel around the country talking to schools, community groups, clubs, corporations and charities. Our messaging is pretty simple…push outside your comfort zone, do hard things, test yourself whenever possible spend some more time outdoors away from devices. Build confidence and resilience through sensible risk taking, especially for kids.

The year has provided a great opportunity to give something back, and I have been working with three organisations in particular. The KIDS Foundation which does amazing work around child accident prevention and post-trauma support, Operation Flinders which takes at risk youth into the remote South Australian bush to help get them back on track, and finally the Wilkins Foundation which aims to promote the adventurous ideals of the explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins, and help kids find their “inner explorer”.

I have lost count of the talks, meetings, flights and hotel rooms and my family has forgotten what I look like. But the time has represented the most amazing adventure and the days spent engaging with Australian kids has made the first six months truly memorable. From an entirely selfish perspective, I have met some high-profile people like Prince Harry and Meghan, Malcolm Turnbull, Peter and Lynn Cosgrove, David Hurley, Scott Morrison, Adam Spencer, Kate Ceberano, Peter Hellier, Jos Valdman and Anh Doh to name a few. All of them delightful and interesting. But time and time again it is the volunteers like the amazing people at Operation Flinders who have impressed me most with their selfless hard work. For me it is ordinary Aussies like these that are our greatest resource, and who deserve our respect and praise. So, if you know one of these great Australians, consider nominating them for an award.

Do you know an extraordinary Australian making our country a better place?  It's up to you. Be Great and Nominate someone in the Australian of the Year Awards today. Go to Nominations close 31st July 2019.


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