Dr Richard Harris, Australian of the Year presents Decision Making in the Dark

The Environment Institute proudly hosted 2019 Australian of the Year dual recipient Dr Richard ‘Harry’ Harris SC OAM for an intimate breakfast presentation. This was followed by a student presentation with extensive Q&A.

Richard shared his fascination of deep-cave exploration which has incidentally led to many underwater, cave discoveries and a magnificent contribution to citizen science. From exploring Mt Gambier’s “gem” the Blue Lake, to working with an elite, international team to rescue 12 boys and their coach in Chiang Rai, Thailand last year, Dr Harris has made a significant impact in volunteer cave rescue and training at an expert level.

Image: Dr Richard Harris and Prof. Bob Hill, Director of the Environment Institute

He conveyed the difficult decision-making process he had to go through when choosing the best way to proceed with rescue last year. With so many varying environmental and human factors to consider, many lives depended on the right decision.

Image: Dr Richard Harris presenting during breakfast

Dr Harris has the inapt ability to connect to his audience through their collective interest and his in-depth knowledge of sciences, medicine and specialist, deep cave abilities. His presentation was often light-hearted, with quick wit and enthusiasm, thoughtful and yet pulled on the emotional heart strings at times. He is a speaker well worth listening to and one that will be remembered for many years to come.

Image: Environment Institute board members Dr Susannah Elliot, Sandy Pitcher, Elaine Benstead, Dr Richard Harris, Vice Chancellor Prof. Peter Rathjen, Prof. Bob Hill, Sandy Currathers

This event was held in conjunction with the Australia Day Council.

Dr Harris Biography
A diver with 30 years’ experience and a specialist in aeromedical retrieval, Richard was leaving for a cave-diving holiday when he received the call for help. Under great pressure and putting his own life at risk, he swam through the narrow cave system to assess the health of those trapped, giving the medical all-clear for each evacuee, and administering an anaesthetic to each of them within the cave to facilitate their rescue.
Richard was key to the rescue’s success, showing character, determination and courage, and staying until the last person was safe.
He has previously participated in complex diving recoveries, appeared in National Geographic documentaries and, in 2015, was recognised for his outstanding contribution to cave exploration. In 2017 he was awarded The Australasian Technical Diver of the Year.

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