Tasmanians' courage recognised with bravery awards

Tasmanians' courage recognised with bravery awards
March 25 21:13 2017 Print This Article

Posted March 26, 2017 08:13:43

It wasn’t until he was ordered to lie on the floor of the prison cell, with his wrists bound by torn strips of bed sheets that former Tasmanian correctional officer Richard Smith began to have second thoughts.

The jail north of Hobart is home to some of Australia’s most notorious criminals, including Port Arthur gunman Martin Bryant.

In August 2015, two inmates had armed themselves with homemade knives — or shivs — and pulled another guard into a cell sparking a four-hour stand-off.

Mr Smith said he became aware the hostage was struggling: “He couldn’t really speak, he just shook his head”.

He then offered himself as a replacement hostage for his ill colleague.

“I said to the inmates that had taken him: ‘He’s not doing too well, I’ll take his place.’

“The two inmates then held me at knife point, with one under my throat and another under my rib cage.”

“After a good five, 10 minutes in there I thought ‘Oh, geez, what have I just done’.”

Prison staff and the police eventually brought the siege to a peaceful end after several hours.

Mr Smith has been awarded a bravery medal for his actions.

He said the correctional officers and police who helped end the siege without anyone being injured deserve praise.

“I want to accept it on behalf of the people I work with, being a correctional officers a hard job and it’s not very often you get some recognition for it.”

The trauma of the experience prevented the former paratrooper from resuming work as a correctional officer.

He’s now completing an electrical apprenticeship at Risdon prison and still catches up with the former colleague whose place he took in the prison cell.

“We just had a couple of beers and said thanks,” Mr Smith said.

“We were just happy that we both got out safe.”

Award ‘proves’ Devonport man died a hero

Luke Jacobs of Devonport has been awarded a posthumous Star of Courage, one of only six given out this year.

The 27-year-old drowned in 2010, while trying to drag his cousin to safety in treacherous waves off the coast of Devonport.

His cousin, Zachary Verhoeven, survived.

Mr Jacobs’ mother, Suzie Wheatley, said she was pleased her son’s courageous actions had been acknowledged with Australia’s highest honour for bravery.

“I did wait a long time for it and I did fight really hard, but in our eyes he was a hero, and now it’s just actually proven that, you know, he deserved this.”

Ms Wheatley is glad she persevered with the process of gaining recognition for her son.

“It’s taken me pretty much four-and-a-half years I think, but nope, it’s all worth the effort.”

“[Luke] such a caring guy, very mischievous, cheeky, had the best smile … he was always there for all his friends.”

Another Tasmanian man, Cameron Banks, was commended for brave conduct.

The off-duty paramedic went to the aid of a man who was shot at Coomera on the Gold Coast in 2010 and continued to treat him, despite the presence of the armed offender nearby.

Topics: awards-and-prizes, human-interest, tas

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Scott Menard
Scott Menard

He is a leading authority on business trends including ‘big data’, self-employment and the social media revolution. He’s the author of the award-winning book, Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed (2011, Wiley) and a regular speaker for Bloomberg TV. He has spoken about global mega trends, big data and the social media revolution at conferences and business events around the world .

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