Dr Craig Challen after being awarded the Star of Courage and Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) by The Governor-General, General Sir Peter Cosgrove. Picture Kym Smith
Dr Craig Challen after being awarded the Star of Courage and Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) by The Governor-General, General Sir Peter Cosgrove. Picture Kym Smith

Thai cave hero named West Australian of the Year

THE retired Perth veterinarian who helped rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded Thai cave has been named the West Australian nominee for Australian of the Year.

Craig Challen and his dive partner, Adelaide anaesthetist Richard Harris, have already received the rare Star of Courage for their crucial roles in the risky July rescue mission in Chiang Rai.

Working up to 12 hours a day, Mr Challen repeatedly risked his life as the children were ushered through the narrow, dark caves.

Craig Challen was crucial to the rescue operation which successfully saved 12 boys and their football coach out of a cave in Thailand. Picture: Supplied
Craig Challen was crucial to the rescue operation which successfully saved 12 boys and their football coach out of a cave in Thailand. Picture: Supplied

 

All 12 were rescued successfully and Mr Challen is considered to have played a leading role in the heroic mission.

Mr Challen was announced as the recipient of the WA Australian of the Year award at Government House in Perth on Tuesday.

 

Cave diving expert Craig Challen (R) with his Adelaide diving partner Richard Harris. Challen and Harris were crucial to the rescue operation in Thailand. Picture: Supplied
Cave diving expert Craig Challen (R) with his Adelaide diving partner Richard Harris. Challen and Harris were crucial to the rescue operation in Thailand. Picture: Supplied

 

WA's Senior Australian of the Year is 73-year-old Yamatji elder, ex-army serviceman and volunteer Frank Mallard, who saw active duty in Borneo and Vietnam.

The WA Young Australian of the Year is 24-year-old feminist, activist and law reformist Noelle Martin, while the local hero is basketballer and researcher Cheryl Kickett-Tucker.

Dr Craig Challen and Dr Richard Harris were awarded the Star of Courage and Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) by The Governor-General, General Sir Peter Cosgrove for their rescue efforts. Picture Kym Smith
Dr Craig Challen and Dr Richard Harris were awarded the Star of Courage and Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) by The Governor-General, General Sir Peter Cosgrove for their rescue efforts. Picture Kym Smith

Other nominees include South Australian craniofacial surgeon Professor David David and journalist Virginia Haussegger for ACT.

The award winners from each state will come together for the national awards on January 26 in Canberra.

 

A picture of Richard Harris (left) and Craig Challen as they prepared to fly home from Thailand. Picture: Supplied
A picture of Richard Harris (left) and Craig Challen as they prepared to fly home from Thailand. Picture: Supplied


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