Award criteria 
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These prestigious awards are in recognition of outstanding contribution to search and rescue within the Australian region during the period 1 July – 30 June.

The awards are open to individuals, groups or organisations that have made a significant contribution to search and rescue in Australia and deserve recognition at a national level.

Any person or organisation can nominate candidates for the Australian SAR Awards by completing the official nomination form.

History of the awards

Awarded first in 1996, the inaugural winners being Senior Constable Aherne, Senior Constable Griffiths and MICA Officer Lamb of the Victorian Police Air Wing for their efforts in the rescue of three men stranded on a sinking trawler in Bass Strait on 23 August 1995.

In the same year two Highly Commended Awards were presented to Mr Kevin Bald for his efforts in the rescue of a man off Kangaroo Island and to Sergeant Richard Mostard of the Bairnsdale Water Police, Victoria for the rescue of a person from an upturned trimaran south east of Gabo Island.

Award categories

To recognise the importance of both professionals and non-professionals within the search and rescue system, the following categories are available for the SAR Awards:

  • Professional—an individual or organisation with the SAR field that has been trained within the search and rescue field or work professionally in a search and rescue role. For example, this includes police officers, rescue aircraft crew, volunteer marine rescue members, and so on.
  • Non-professional—a individual, group or organisation that has not been trained in the search and rescue field but has been involved in a search and rescue operation. For example, this may include fellow hikers, a passer-by or surfers that may have assisted in a search and rescue operation.
  • Long-standing contribution to SAR—an individual, group or organisation that has made an outstanding contribution to the Australian SAR system, over an extended period of time.
2021 recipients

Professional Search and Rescue Award 2021  

Winners: NSW Police Dive Unit Senior Sergeant Raymond Busby, Sergeant Josh Lisle, Sergeant Steven Wye, Senior Constable Tim Boardman, Senior Constable Ryan Good.

Commendation: NSW Police Marine Area Command Sergeant Tony Hogg, Senior Constable Matthew Gray, Senior Constable Nicholas Leach.  

Non-Professional Search and Rescue Award 2021

Winners: Andrew Peter Coronis and Samuel Michael Coronis.

Commendation: Captain Rohit Upadhyay, Chief Officer Santosh Kumar and the crew of the ship Godam.

Long-standing Contribution to Search and Rescue Award 2021

Winners: Southport Volunteer Marine Rescue.

Commendation: Mr Francis Egan.

Search and Rescue Award 2021
Professional Award - NSW Police Dive Unit
Professional Search and Rescue Award

Recipients: NSW Police Dive Unit Senior Sergeant Raymond Busby, Sergeant Josh Lisle, Sergeant Steven Wye, Senior Constable Tim Boardman, Senior Constable Ryan Good.

Incident details: 

The NSW Police Dive Unit have been awarded the Professional Search and Rescue Award for assisting in the tragic recovery of two deceased persons, who had unfortunately drowned in a remote area of a canyon.  

The police officers hiked into the canyon for approximately two hours with heavy dive equipment. Upon entering the water, the police officers conducted their search in an enclosed, confined, underwater cave system where risk of entrapment or entanglement with dive equipment was high. Despite the strong currents and presence of an underwater whirlpool, the officers were able to retrieve the deceased persons so they could be returned to their families.  

This incident was physically and mentally fatiguing for the officers involved and their efforts under the challenging circumstances were commendable.  

Professional Search and Rescue Commendation

Recipients: NSW Police Marine Area Command Sergeant Tony Hogg, Senior Constable Matthew Gray, Senior Constable Nicholas Leach 

Professional Search and Rescue Commendation

Incident details: 

On Monday 9 November 2020 the NSW Marine Area Command received a Mayday Relay distress call for an 11.5m yacht Solar Coaster with three people on board and in distress 320 nautical miles north-east of Sydney. The yacht was making slow progress west towards the Australian mainland after being de-masted during the night.  

It was under electric motor power by a petrol generator, with the progress of the yacht initially monitored by NSW Water Police. The main engine was underpowered to deal with ocean swells and current and was making very slow progress. Monitoring of the crew and supplies was ongoing throughout the night at the Marine Area Command.  

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Challenger Rescue jet then conducted a fuel and supply drop to the stricken vessel, including a Satellite phone to establish better communications.   

Monitoring of the yacht was continued on its voyage for another 48 hours by Marine Area Command and contact maintained to check the welfare of the crew. On Wednesday 11 November, the yacht had made minimal headway covering only 40 nautical miles in 48 hours, fatigue and health of the crew was failing with only 3 days water and food remaining. It was very evident that the yacht and crew would not make mainland Australia without outside assistance.  

As such, officers from the Marine Area Command stepped in to conduct, what is considered to be, one of the longest non-stop tows conducted by Water Police. The officers from the Marine Area Command - Port Stephens Sergeant Hogg, Senior Constable Gray and Senior Constable Leach - conducted this operation in extreme conditions and saved the lives of three men. The crew covered a distance of over 400 nautical miles in sea conditions up to 5 metres and winds of over 40 knots to conduct the operation and bring the men and yacht safely to shore. Fatigue on board the Police launch for the 54-hour operation was a major issue however, was extremely well managed by Sergeant Hogg on minimal or no rest.   

All three crew performed their duties as police officers and mariners with extreme professionalism and courage under adverse ocean conditions and I consider to be a great example of “Outstanding Contribution to Search and Rescue” in Australia.   

Non-Professional Search and Rescue Award
Non-Professional Search and Rescue Award 

Recipients: Samuel Michael Coronis and Andrew Peter Coronis 

Incident details: 

On the morning of Sunday 2 August 2020 in the South Passage Bar, Moreton Bay, QLD. Samuel and Andrew Coronis were returning to Brisbane in their fishing vessel. Conditions were 2.5-3m swells and approximately 12-15 knot winds. In the process of returning home, Samuel and Andrew discovered a semi-submerged vessel with its bow out of the water, they found a male and female in distress as well as their canine companion. Samuel called triple zero as Andrew manoeuvred the vessel closer to the persons in the water. Samuel instinctively dived into the water with two life jackets and swam towards them.  

The female was caught up in a crab pot rope which was wrapped around her neck and strangling her. Samuel removed the ropes and fishing line from both parties. In the meantime, Andrew was able to retrieve the canine from the water. The female was unconscious when pulled to safety onboard their vessel and CPR was successfully administered by Andrew.  

Samuel and Andrew’s act of selflessness ultimately saved the lives of two people. Their empathy and courageous attributes during the rescue are a fine example of exactly what the National Search and Rescue Awards represent.  

Non-Professional Search and Rescue Commendation

Recipients: Captain Rohit Upadhyay, Chief Officer Santosh Kumar and the Crew of MT Godam 

Incident details:   

On 3 December 2020 in the Torres Strait, the crew of the MT Godam displayed excellent professionalism and skill in rescuing two fishermen clinging to life on a piece of wood after their fishing boat had capsized. 

The Torres Strait is known for its dangerous reefs and strong flowing current. On the day of the rescue the crew encountered rough weather conditions which hampered their visibility. The crew lost sight of the fisherman three times but persisted with the rescue. Upon sighting the fisherman a fourth time, it was noted that there were predatory hammerhead sharks circling the men. 

A smoke marker and man overboard (MOB) lifebuoy were deployed, the fisherman grabbed a hold of the MOB and the MT Godam was moved within 1.5 meters from the fisherman so that the crew could easily catch the buoy and rescue one of the fishermen. A rescue helicopter was tasked to retrieve the other fishermen. It was noted that the survivors had been in the water for over 17 hours. 

The precision by which the rescue was carried out given the circumstances and the assistance provided by the Master, Chief Officer and the crew of MT Godam was incredible.  

The rescue was widely covered by the Australian and International media. 

Non-Professional Search and Rescue Commendation
Long-standing contribution to Search and Rescue Award
Long-standing contribution to Search and Rescue Award

Recipient: Southport Volunteer Marine Rescue 

Details:   

Volunteer Marine Rescue Southport has been in operation since the late 1960s, throughout this time its members have continuously provided maritime search and rescue services to those operating vessels in the waters of the Gold Coast region. 

The current VMR Southport Unit operates under a service agreement with the Queensland Government’s Fire and Emergency Department that requires the unit to undertake a broad range of SAR activities including responding if a surface vessel has requested assistance, transmitted a distress signal, is apparently in distress, is reported to be overdue, is unable to make a safe haven or is sinking or has sunk. 

It is estimated that in the 50+ years that Southport VMR has been in operation there have been: in excess of 35,000 rescue activations, 2,500,000 volunteer hours contributed, over 80,00 persons returned to safety, 1.8 million litres of fuel used in the 28 rescue vessels that have been part of the fleet over the half-century; and  tens of millions of dollars of property saved from the perils of the ocean. 

In order for Southport VMR to achieve its high level of SAR support for those operating their vessels in the Gold Coat waters, they have a 24/7 radio operator and 6 crews, consisting of 12-14 individuals who operate a 24 hour shift over each weekend, including public holidays.  

Southport VMR crews include a fully qualified Queensland ambulance service first responder. These professional qualifications provide the ability to stabilise individuals prior to the arrival of more qualified personnel. The fact that there are multiple volunteers qualified in this role demonstrates the professionalism of the VMR Southport crews. 

For the past 50 years VMR Southport has ‘walked the talk’ regarding saving and assisting lives and property at sea and providing personnel and equipment in order to carry out search and rescue operations at sea and on the Gold Coast waterways. 

Long-standing contribution to Search and Rescue Commendation

Recipient: Francis Egan 

Details: 

Mr Francis “Frank” Egan has been recognised for the Long-Standing Contribution to Search and Rescue Commendation based on his 54 years of dedicated service to the volunteer marine search and rescue sector in Victoria. Frank was a founding member of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard and has served in many roles at various flotillas in Victoria. 

Unfortunately, the record keeping systems have only provided electronic records back to the early 90's, but available records indicate Frank has achieved over 5,000 sea hours specifically related to marine search and rescue. In addition to this, Frank has not only dedicated the last 54 years of service to helping the boating community, but he has also been instrumental in training thousands of marine search and rescue volunteers in Victoria.  

There is no specific incident that makes Frank eligible for this award, rather, it is the countless and selfless years of service dedicated to marine search and rescue. There is no doubt Frank is responsible for saving hundreds of lives at sea during this time, while also having direct involvement in returning deceased who lost their lives at sea to their families following extended on-water searches.  

Long-standing contribution to Search and Rescue Award
Bullimore swims out from under the hull
2020 recipients

The National Search and Rescue Council’s Australian Search and Rescue Awards are presented by the NATSAR Council in recognition of outstanding contribution to search and rescue within the Australian region.

This year’s awards recognise 13 recipients who were instrumental in saving the lives of many people, conducting dangerous operations or contributing to search and rescue over their extended careers.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said it was a great honour to present the awards to recognise the brave actions of the recipients. Read the media release by the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack.

Professional search and rescue award 2020

Western Australian search and rescue dive team. Team members: Sergeant Bradley Bell, Senior Constable Alan Trist, Senior Constable Christopher Jacob, Senior Constable Luke McCulloch, Ashley Skinner (Esperance Marine Rescue), David Macmahon (Esperance Surf Life Saving), Jacob Oversby (Esperance Surf Life Saving).

The dive team showed remarkable endurance and commitment to their role in responding to multiple consecutive marine incidents across the state of Western Australia.

The WA Police would like to acknowledge all volunteer efforts involved in their busy search and rescue season. Although not everyone can be acknowledge for this award, the efforts of the dive team is testament to the collaborative and cooperative nature of the overall national SAR system.

NATSAR winners of professional award
westpac one
Professional commendation award 2020

‘Westpac 1’ Rescue Helicopter Crew. Team members: Graeme Anderson (Helicopter Pilot), Sean Flanagan (Air Crewman Officer), Sean Vallance (NSW Ambulance paramedic), Tim Starkey (NSW Health Doctor)

The crew of Westpac 1 showed exceptional skill and teamwork during an incident involving challenging conditions, which were above and beyond most search and rescue taskings. The professionalism and dedication of the well-planned and highly trained crew enabled the successful rescue of two lives.

Long-standing contribution to search and rescue award 2020

William (Bill) Folder, Tasmanian State Emergency Service.

Bill has played an instrumental role as a volunteer with the TAS SES since 1977. Bill has been involved in many Search and Rescue operations over the years, tirelessly working to save lives, and is an extremely worthy candidate for the National Long-standing contribution to Search and Rescue Award.

Bill Fodder
Long-standing contribution to search and rescue commendation

Tony Clitheroe, Rockingham Volunteer Marine Rescue, WA.

Anthony (Tony) Clitheroe’s passion for the ocean has driven his dedication to the Volunteer Marine Rescue at Rockingham, WA. Tony is the VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue) Communications Officer and conducts radio support to rescue vessels, monitoring these vessels which they are conducting search operations. The role includes extensive after-hours callouts.