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Australia’s search and rescue heroes honoured

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) congratulates the recipients of this year’s National Search and Rescue Council’s Australian Search and Rescue (NATSAR) Awards for 2021-22.

The annual awards were presented by the NATSAR Council tonight in Melbourne in recognition of outstanding contributions to search and rescue (SAR) within the Australian region.

AMSA Chief Executive Officer Mick Kinley said it was an honour to recognise and applaud the actions of the recipients of the awards.

“The actions of these recipients cannot be understated as they have selflessly put their lives on the line to save others,” Mr Kinley said. “We sincerely applaud these people who have all displayed incredible bravery.”

This year there were three categories for the awards: Professional, Non-Professional and Long-Standing Contribution to Search and Rescue.

In the Professional Category, the ACT AFP Search and Rescue Team displayed remarkable resilience in a physically demanding alpine operation in dangerous sub-zero temperatures.

The Commendation for this category was awarded to the NSW Police Rescue officer and Ambulance Paramedics who tackled a treacherous rock fall to rescue three survivors in the Blue Mountains.

The Non-Professional Award category was awarded to a Ballarat man, Maxime Jond, who performed a selfless act of heroism at a Princeton beach in Victoria on New Year’s Day, saving the life of a swimmer caught in a dangerous rip.

The Long-Standing Contribution Award was awarded to Jim Whitehead, a retired 42-year veteran of the Queensland Police Service and search and rescue specialist, who successfully coordinated thousands of operations saving hundreds of lives.

Awarded the Commendation for this category was Dean Wotherspoon, a Tasmanian Police Rescue Squad member, with 25 years’ service.

“I am humbled at the opportunity to recognise such incredible work, passion and dedication in helping others, it’s a privilege the Council is proud to support,” NATSAR Council Chair and AMSA Executive Director Response, Mark Morrow added.

The NATSAR Council (The Council) is a cooperative body responsible for national SAR response arrangements across Australia. Council members are from AMSA, the Australian Defence Force and state, territory and federal police.

2022 Australian Search and Rescue awards recipients

Professional category

Awardees: Australian Federal Police Search and Rescue Team (ACT), Senior Constable Paul Yates, Senior Constable Peter Ibbott and Sergeant Andrew Craig, rescued three runners from Mt Gudgenby, Namadgu National Park in dangerous sub-zero temperatures from an exposed mountainside.

Commendation: NSW Police Rescue Officers Sergeant Dallas Atkinson, Senior Constable Casson Levy and Senior Constable Stephen Booth and NSW Ambulance Paramedic Specialists David Ipsen and Jen Campbell, rescued three people from the Valley of the Waters after a rockfall that killed two other family members.

Non-professional category

Awardee: Ballart resident Maxime Jond put his own life at risk to assist rescuing a swimmer from a dangerous rip after he used an inflatable lounge to keep a swimmer afloat long enough for a helicopter to assist.

Long standing Contribution category
Awardee: Jim Whitehead has been a dedicated police officer within the QLD Police Service for 42 years. He has successfully coordinated thousands of search and rescue (SAR) missions across QLD, other states, and territories, and neighbouring countries, saving many lives.

Commendation: Constable Dean Wotherspoon has been a member of the Tasmania Police Search and Rescue (SAR) squad for nearly 25 years, saving the lives of many people, conducting dangerous operations, and contributing to Australian SAR over the bulk of his policing career.