THE Australian Bravery Association (ABA) held its Victoria Reunion in Mildura last weekend, an event that saw 40 people attending, many of whom travelled to our region for the occasion.

The event was organised by Mildura’s Coralee Lever, who is the president of the Victorian chapter of the ABA.

The ABA is a not-for-profit incorporated association which aims to maximise the support available to those members in the community who conduct themselves bravely to save life, property or the environment and thereby experience physical, emotional or other personal hardship.

The reunion attendees had a welcome dinner at the RSL on Friday night where the ‘Weekly met up with some of the attendees, including Coralee Lever.

Coralee’s connection with the Victorian chapter of the Australian Bravery Association came about after her husband Dennis was tragically killed by Martin Byrant at the Broad Arrow Café at Port Arthur on April 28, 1996. Red Cliffs businessman Ron Jary who was travelling with the Levers was also killed.

Posthumous award

In 1998, a posthumous award was bestowed on Mr Lever at a ceremony at Government House in Melbourne which Coralee accepted on his behalf.

“In 2000, there was an invitation to visit Government House in Canberra and that was the 25th Anniversary of The

Australian Honours and Awards which recognises the outstanding service and contributions of Australians,” Coralee said.

“Following that we had a meeting of people and that led to the formation of the Australian Bravery Association in 2001. I have been president of the Victoria chapter since 2007.”

Newcastle resident and former paramedic Alan Playford, who was in Mildura for the event, is a close friend of convenor Coralee Lever.

“I have been friends with Coralee for many years since Dennis was involved in the event at Port Arthur,” Alan said.

“She is an engaging lady and we have been great friends for quite a long time.

“I became involved with the Association through my incident and knowing Coralee has strengthened that.”
Alan was involved in an incident in 1996 which saw a lady trapped in a house fire and at great risk to himself he went into the home to rescue her.

“The house was fully involved and foolishly I suppose, I entertained and idea that I could get her out,” Alan said.

“I entered the house and searched a couple of rooms and I could see here lying in the kitchen and I was able to get to her and I was pulling her out when the whole of the roof caved in.

“Unfortunately a tile hit her on the head and killed her and the explosion blew me across the room and I was knocked unconscious against the wall.

“The firies arrived and did a house search and pulled me out and my partner who was out the front resuscitated me as I was unconscious and not breathing.

“I received a Star of Courage and that is how I became a member of the Bravery Association.”

In danger again

Alan also attended many other dangerous situations including the Canberra bushfires in 2003.

“I was part of a special rescue team which was normally helicopter bourne and the team would be deployed to disasters,” he said.

“We were deployed to the Canberra bushfires where we rescued 100 people out of one suburb when their houses were on fire.

“The team I was in ‘The Special Casualty Access Team’ sent us to various places around the world.

“I went to the genocide in Rawanda, the war in East Timor, Solomon Islands and was also despatched to the aftermath of the Bali bombings and the tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia, in 2004.”

Don and Jennifer McPherson were also in Mildura for the weekend’s gathering, travelling from Woonona near Wollongong in New South Wales.

Don is a Vietnam veteran and former police officer who received a group citation bravery award for his role in confronting an armed offender in an incident he attended near Fitzroy Crossing, in 1986.

“I only received the award about three years ago,” he said.

“It was a belated one and so I am a relatively new member of the association, having joined a year or so ago.

“It was a big surprise actually. It just came out of the blue when I got a phone call from one of my old comrades and he said ‘we have all been recommended for a group bravery award for the shoot-out we had’.

“I said ‘wow, 35 years on!’”

Jennifer said she is extremely proud of her husband’s service and his bravery being recognised.

“I am extremely proud of all of those boys who were with him – seven of them in total,” she said.

“And of all those who have served in the military and police for what they do. They all deserve bravery awards. I am passionate about that.”

Medal for valour

Former Country Fire Service member Darrell Tree, from the Elliston region in South Australia, also recounted the event that saw him awarded a bravery medal.

“I was involved in the rescue of a three-year-old boy from a crane that was being electrified,” he said.

“I had to push the driver away because he was wanting to pull the boy away and I pushed him off with my shoulder and got electrocuted. A struggle ensued and he pushed me into the crane and I got electrocuted again and that knocked me out onto the ground. When I came to the little boy was still standing by the side of the crane and the electricity was entering him ad passing down to his feet and you could see the smoke coming up out of his sand shoe.

“I couldn’t standby and watch him get burnt and so I went into a crouch position pulled his shirt and pulled him away from the crane.

“And so we have gathered here as a group to support one another who have been through some traumatic events in our lives. As a group we understand how that can affect each other.”