Let’s talk: What constitutes bravery? 165

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When we were growing up, or even up until relatively recently, bravery awards were given in combat or to firefighters and the like. Since 1975 the Bravery Medal in Australia has been awarded for acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances for people who selflessly put themselves in jeopardy to protect the lives or property of others.

It was recently announced by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk that Sunshine Coast surfer Julian Wilson should be nominated for a bravery award after he paddled towards fellow surfer Mick Fanning as he was being attacked by a shark in South Africa.

There have been questions about whether what Wilson did was truly brave in the context of what we typically consider brave, for example, is there a difference between jumping into open water to rescue a baby and paddling towards a very deadly shark?

Ms Palaszczuk said in a statement she had written to Government House to nominate Wilson for a bravery award, “What we saw in South Africa was Queensland mateship at its best.

“Like anyone who has watched the vision, I couldn’t help but think what a terrifying situation it must have been.

“He put his own safety aside and disregarded the obvious risk to his life so he could help a fellow Queenslander.

“Anyone who paddles towards a shark attack instead of away from it is pretty brave in my books – I don’t know too many people who would have done that”.

Wilson’s mother Nola said her son would be a reluctant hero and it’s a bit of a surprise, albeit an honour.

Considering many of our own parents being awarded bravery medals in the war, do you think the term brave has new meaning in the modern world? 

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  1. Even tho it appears fanning was in no danger ( hindsight) he didn’t know that and went to help. Brave yes.

  2. I don’t begrudge him the award, it would be a terrifying experience..it was such a big shark

  3. Perhaps a bit of opportunism to grab a headline while a story is hot? When will the Premier nominate people like fire fighters, police, etc. who risk their lives daily to save others?

    4 REPLY
    • I don’t think he was thinking of publicity while he was so close to a Great White, do you?

    • Sue Allen I was referring to the Premier trying to grab some attention to look good. Fanning and his mate both deserve the attention not the Premier.

    • Alan, as a firefighter myself, we are not looking for accolades, we are who are to serve the community. That is the job we train for and hold ourselves as professionals. Sometimes beyond the call of duty happens and they have been recognised and deservedly so. Average people performing acts selflessly to help others are true heroes.
      Peter Neilsen

  4. My God you people! Yes hero!
    There were 2 huge white pointer sharks he paddled over to save his friend. His friend was fighting for his life! Fanning in no immediate danger – are you serious? If I had a white pointer next to me and I was punching him and felt myself being dragged down I think I would be in imminent danger.

    8 REPLY
    • It was confirmed as a juvenile white pointer! All you people saying it was nothing go and speak with someone thats has had a close encounter. My boys mate lost a leg to a white pointer while surfing in WA. It’s a big deal!!

    • ABC reported organisers said there were 2 spotted in the area. 1,2 whatever, all it needs is 1.
      I get a bit puzzled by folks who seem to want to minimise the danger. We are in their territory granted but that does not minimise the danger. Surfers have a healthy respect for the ocean and it’s creatures. You will note that no-one has said kill the shark. That is because they have a respect. Doesn’t minimise the fear and the bravery of these surfers in this terrifying experience.

    • They said two were spotted earlier, before the comp. I think it was the comp organisers who let it go on that Fanning should have punched.

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