Date: 06/07/2023

Leadership WA welcomed Dr Craig Challen SC OAM, 2019 Australian of the Year, to share his story with graduates of the Leading Australian Resilient Communities Program (LARC), Leadership WA and Australian Rural Leadership Foundation Alumni and special guests.

The occasion was held to celebrate the graduation of our Goldfields-Esperance and Mid West participants from the Federal Government LARC pilot Program, held nationally to deliver leadership development to ten regional communities. Live streamed from Perth to events held in Geraldton, Esperance and Kalgoorlie, Dr Challen’s address connected regional leaders across thousands of kilometres. He encouraged them to seek learning and opportunities, and to tackle the hard and difficult things in life, as those are the experiences that will provide a foundation of strength and resilience when it is needed.

Dr Challen is many things. A retired Veterinary Surgeon, avid adventure seeker and accidental hero. In 2018, his passion for the unusual hobby of cave diving, saw him play a critical role in the successful rescue of a team of young Thai soccer players and their coach, from a flooded cave.

Rapid decision-making, collaboration and determination were just some of the themes covered by Dr Challen, as he led us through the planning and execution of the harrowing rescue and his initial belief that success seemed very unlikely.

While feted as a hero, from his perspective he is simply “a proficient cave diving enthusiast who was in the right place at the right time”.

"It turned out that I had been pursuing a passion for decades which ended up being the skillset that in this instance, helped others. Challenges arise in many different forms for humans, being ready to show up for someone else is a privilege.”

Dr Challen, thank you for your candid recount of the days, hours and minutes of urgency, that resulted in 13 young men receiving a second chance at life.