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  • sar@anzdmc.com.au

Search and Rescue Professional Petty Officer Adam Thomson is our newest ambassador for the 2019 Australian & New Zealand Search & Rescue Conference.

From deployment in the Middle East through to rescuing and resuscitating his nephew from a jetski incident, discover more of Petty Officer Thomson’s story and drive behind his passion for search and rescue.

Q: What is your experience with search & rescue?

petty officer adam thomson

A: I served 18 years in the Australian defence force. In addition to numerous rescues that have appeared in the media, I was also involved in the rescue of three divers at Bass Point (Shellharbour) in heavy seas, as part of my patrol duties with Surf Lifesaving New South Wales. I was involved in a rescue of my nephew who had an epileptic fit and fell off the back of my jetski. I was required to resuscitate him 200 metres off shore. The result was zero secondary injuries and a complete recovery.

I was also involved in the search of the people who fell off the back of a cruise ship in Tamworth (New South Wales).

Q: What do you think should change and improve with search & rescue in Australia?

A: I’d like to see agencies work together as opposed to the more hostile attitude of “this is our rescue don’t get involved”. I’d like to see more cohesion between senior departments. Be it marine rescue, police or volunteer rescue organisations, everyone has something to offer at their own level of experience.

Q: What do you think are important skills and characteristics of a successful search & rescue leader?

A: The ability to listen and move on at high-speed while maintaining a duck-like scenario and remaining cool. The best way to achieve this is looking at defence models and working closely with defence leaders. The Navy train for a man overboard at least once a week and undertake major rescues and damage control most days while the ship is deployed. When bad things happen we are able to adjust and move seamlessly into a professional relaxed manner, methodically working on the issues at hand.

I think the ability to search at night and in all weather conditions is also paramount to success for rescuing.

Q: How do you create lifesaving to be an attractive career choice for young people?

I believe developing the creation of choices in search and rescue can’t be taught at school – it needs to be developed on the job and in a professional manner.

Although agencies like New South Wales Police and Queensland Police take the lead on search and rescue I believe the subject matter experts are defence (Navy), as it is a major part of what the warships do when they are deployed.

Q: Why did you decided to support the SAR Conference?

A:  I decided to support the Australian & New Zealand Search & Rescue Conference because I believe in search & rescue and I think it is a strong entity to support life. I also believe that one life saved no matter how much it cost is worth every cent. You only have to spend five minutes at sea in the dark to contemplate what it would be like to be stranded with no immediate help.


Petty Officer Adam Thomson (rtd) joined the Royal Australian Navy from Newcastle in 1996 as a Maritime Logistic Steward. He later specialised in Aviation and Ships Emergency Medicine. Petty Officer Thomson served in Her Majesty’s Australian (HMA) Ships Perth, Arunta, Sydney, Success, Manoora, Melbourne and was commission crew onboard Yarra.

Whilst deployed to the Middle East, Adam held the position of Defence Watch Coordinator, as well as being in-charge of Forward Ships Emergency Medical team and Melbourne’s grade two helicopter marshaller. He served as Petty Officer instructor at The Australian Defence Force School of Catering, HMAS Cerberus later posting to Base Support Operations officer, HMAS Albatross. He was deployed on numerous deployments in border protection and international relations. He served in flight deck and emergency medical teams whilst operationally deployed. Adam received the Australian Active Service medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Australian Operational Service Medal, Defence Long Service Medal, as well as the Australian Service Medal.

Petty Officer Thomson became a member of the Tourism Hospitality and Catering Institute of Australia as an associate fellow in 2000. Petty Officer Thomson holds Surf Life Saving silver and bronze medallions, Diploma of Hospitality Management, Certificate IV in Hospitality Supervision, Certificate III in Frontline Business Management, Certificate II in Health Care and Certificate III in Public Safety and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

Petty Officer Thomson was the Caretaker of the Australian Navy’s Rugby Academy, coached HMAS Cerberus and was Assistant Coach of Royal Australian Navy’s under 21 rugby union. He was also Assistant Coach of the Australian Services Female Rugby Union and the Royal Australian Navy’s Rugby female team, coaching the Royal Australian Navy’s Female 7s side in 2013. Adam was part of the 2005 Australian rugby league squad who beat the New Zealand Services rugby league side 40-nil in the first ANZAC Day test at Suncorp Stadium. He concluded United Nations peacekeeping pre-deployment training in 2010.

Petty Officer Thomson is a Critical Incident Stress Management Advisor and equity and diversity adviser. He holds a Petty Officer Adam Thomson was promoted throughout the ranks within minimum time and promoted to leading seaman by Prime Minister John Howard in 2002 and medically discharged from the Royal Australian Navy in 2013.

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