Cave rescuers issue challenge to Aussie kids
Australians of the Year, Craig Challen and Richard Harris, tell Aussie kids to get active
Posted on 09.04.2019
The Australians of the Year, famous for their high-risk Thai cave rescue, have issued a challenge to the kids of Australia — get off your phones and dare to get a few scratches.
Craig Challen and Richard Harris say the character-building benefits of outdoor activity are slipping away, as Australians are increasingly glued to their phones, tablets and TVs.
“One thing has absolutely changed, and that’s the introduction of smartphones in the late 2000s,” Dr Harris told 7.30.
“I’ve got three kids and I know they communicate using this technology, so we can’t take it away from them and we’re all equally guilty now of using these technology too much.
“But there is a danger of kids getting locked inside on their screens and not getting outside and doing outdoor activities.”
The pair, who played a crucial role in the rescue of 12 young Thai boys and their soccer coach in July, took their message to the waters off Perth, when they went reef diving with 20 teenage Sea Scouts.
They say the Scouts’ motto of “be prepared” is one that resonates with them.
Prior to the rescue, Dr Harris was keeping a low-profile as an anaesthesiologist in Adelaide, squeezing in cave diving trips around work commitments and family life.
Dr Challen had sold his veterinary practice in Perth, and was focusing his energy on co-owning a charter boat, learning to fly helicopters and spending as much time diving in deep, dark waters as possible.
“We’d talked about doing a cave rescue, but it wasn’t something we knew was coming,” he told 7.30.
“It’s an example of how situations can catch you by surprise, so you’ve got to be ready, and have as many skills as you can.
“Everybody will face a test in their time, whether it’s illness, or financial difficulties, or maybe a natural disaster, and when it comes there’s no time to prepare, so you have to spend your life being ready for that.”
On a sunny Saturday in Perth, the doctors dived with the Sea Scouts down to a reef 20 metres deep in cold water, and were rewarded with an underwater wonderland of coral and crayfish.
“It was absolutely beautiful out there,” 14-year-old Indira Blycha told 7.30.
“It’s just something you will remember forever.
“You’ll never remember sitting at home on your phone, but something like this you’ll never forgot.”
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