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Broken ribs didn t stop shark hero
Trevor Burns. Picture: Patrick Hamilton

Trevor Burns says he just did what came naturally and shies away from being called a hero.

But the heroic actions of the former Perth man will be recognised today when he is named this year's sole recipient of Australia's highest civilian bravery accolade - the Star of Courage - for saving a 19-year-old woman during a shark attack near Garden Island.

The 50-year-old is among 85 recipients this year of Australian Bravery Decorations, the highest recognition of selfless bravery and service in the country.

READ MORE TALES OF BRAVERY IN THE WEST AUSTRALIAN TODAY

Men and women who helped save lives during the Queensland floods in December 2010 and January 2011 are among those honoured today by the Australian Bravery Decorations Council. AFL legend Ron Barassi received an award for chasing down a man who bashed a woman in front of him in Melbourne.

Mr Burns was in a diving tour group led by Elyse Frankcom in November 2010 when a shark sped past him and bit into the teenager's leg, thrashing her around and attempting to pull her under.

"At first I thought it was a dolphin because it was grey and it came in like a freight train and when I saw it open its mouth and do a double bite on her legs I screamed to myself, 'Just get it off her'," Mr Burns said.

He grabbed the shark's tail and attempted to pull the animal off while Ms Frankcom began to punch the shark in the nose.

The animal released its grip and darted away, with Ms Frankcom seriously injured and sinking quickly towards the ocean floor.

"She disappeared in a cloud of blood. I couldn't see her," Mr Burns said. "I now know that everyone else was heading for the boat but because I'd seen the attack - I don't think anyone else actually saw the attack - there was absolutely no way I was turning tail and going back without her.

"She'd dropped her (aqua) scooter, her face mask was gone, the weight belt was still on and she was just sinking to the bottom with her hands up and not doing anything about coming back to the surface.

"I wasn't sure if she was going to be breathing or not, but thankfully when we got to the surface she took an enormous breath and the problem was solved."

He got Ms Frankcom to the boat and with the help of two others, one a paramedic and the other a nurse, stemmed her blood loss before she was taken to hospital.

Mr Burns' actions were made even more incredible by the fact that he had seriously injured his ribs - later discovering they were likely broken - when he slipped and fell hours earlier.

Ms Frankcom received more than 200 stitches to close the wounds, which included a big semicircle bite on her right thigh and gashes on her left leg.

But the ocean enthusiast was keen to return to the water and when she ventured back for her first dive almost six months later, Mr Burns was at her side.

The father of two now lives in Brisbane but was in Perth in March last year when Ms Frankcom contacted him to join her for her comeback dive in the ocean.

"We were both sort of wondering if we'd hesitate or if anything would happen but we were both pretty cool and slid into the water and it was magic," Mr Burns said.

"It was a special day."