The Australians who helped rescue of 12 boys trapped inside a Thai cave are on their way home, as a campaign builds to award Dr Richard Harris and his dive partner Craig Challen Australia’s highest honour.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull already has the ball rolling, while crews from other countries involved in the operation can’t praise our men highly enough.
On Friday the Australian rescue team left Chiang Rai, with Adelaide the first stop for Dr Richard Harris, whose father passed away during the rescue mission.
Other divers agree that Dr Harris played a special role in the remarkable rescue effort.
“He’s got a very good bedside manner, he’s got a very bouncy Australian accent, and they seemed to find that quite relaxing and reassuring,” British diver John Volanthen said.
Dr Harris and long time dive partner Craig Challen are up for our highest civilian honour, the Cross of Valour.
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But friends say the Adelaide anesthesiologist is keen to keep a low profile.
“I think he said something like, ‘all I want to do is go home and become transparent’,” John Dalla Zuanna from the Cave Diver’s Association said.
That seems unlikely, as Malcolm Turnbull has already made recommendations to the Governor General that the men be honoured.
At least one medal petition has attracted 33,000 signatures in just two days.
“We should never underestimate what they individually, collectively went through,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten agreed, saying, “Not only have they given a gift to these boys and their families, they’ve given a gift to every other Australian.”
The 12 boys remain in hospital in Chiang Rai. Two with lung infections are said to be recovering well, while three others with ear infections are also on the mend.
But the boys will stay in isolation for up to a week before they can go home.
Three of the boys are stateless by law. Without a nationality, they are unable to access some basic human rights.
The push is now on for authorities to grant them Thai citizenship within months.
Another set of miracle workers, the Thai Navy SEALs, have received their own heroes’ welcome back at base – with a resounding cry of “hooyah, hooyah.”