‘I was scared he would die’: NSW heroes honoured
From daring sea and fire rescues, to frightening encounters with armed assailants, the 2021 Australian Bravery Decorations List has recognised 111 people who responded to the worst of circumstances in the most courageous of ways.
Some were specifically trained to respond to emergencies. Others just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Resha Tandan was 17 in January 2019 when her then boyfriend Issac Ebeling fell down a 30 metre cliff in the Blue Mountains.
Ms Tandan said she operated on "adrenaline and instinct" after the initial shock, getting a friend to call Triple 0 while she clambered down the rock face in just her socks to check Mr Ebeling's condition.
"I was scared if I didn't do something he would die and that I wouldn't be able to live with myself," she said.
"It wasn't even a choice for me whether to go down or not. I had to go down."
Ms Tandan said she was very honoured to have been nominated for the Bravery List by Isaac's mother Paula.
"It's really special for me just to think she's seen what I've done as to be so deserving of such a high honour," she said.
Currently studying primary school teaching at Australian Catholic University (ACU), Ms Tandan said she saw many examples of courage among her age group.
"A lot of the time we underestimate the young people in our country. There's this expectation that we're all irresponsible and not as good under pressure; that we're the phone generation, this self absorbed generation. But especially in my community, I see so many young people do brave things and it's a big honour for me to be nominated at such a young age."
The award recipients span the generations, with 71-year-old Marine Rescue volunteer Laurie Nolan receiving the highest honour, the Star of Courage, for the role he played in the dramatic night-time attempted rescue of a racing yacht in a ferocious storm off Port Stephens in 2016.
Mr Nolan was one of 16 operation volunteers recognised, with the retired sales and marketing manager receiving the top honour for his quick thinking in helping free trapped crew members when the rescue boat tipped over.
"We couldn't see a thing in front of us, behind us, to the side," he said. "We were wrestling with the boat in foul conditions."
When asked what went through his mind as the boat tipped over, Mr Nolan said: "I'm not a religious person so I wasn't praying, however I was thinking, 'oh my God, this is it'."
Mr Nolan said the crew's training and safety protocols "made the difference".
"Everyone knows what everyone's got to do," he said. "You know what your job is, you know what other people's job is and there's a great sense of reliance on people, particularly in serious situations such as we were in."
British tourist Tom Jackson was awarded the Star of Courage posthumously for his bravery in trying to protect a fellow backpacker during a knife attack at the Home Hill Hostel near Townsville in 2016. The 30 year old died from injuries he sustained in the attack, as did the woman he was protecting, Mia Ayliffe-Chung.
Originally published as 'I was scared he would die': NSW heroes honoured