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Published 30 June 2015

84 Queensland Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) and six Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AusMAT) Taskforce personnel have been recognised for their humanitarian efforts following the devastating 2011 Christchurch Earthquake.

The group was deployed a day after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake caused widespread damage across Christchurch, killing 185 people and injuring thousands more.

Today, the same men and women became the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) recipients for the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal, which recognises Australians for performing emergency humanitarian service overseas in hazardous circumstances.

The USAR and AusMAT Taskforce is a specialised team of internationally-accredited emergency services and health care workers equipped to respond to extreme emergency circumstances, such as natural disasters.

Fire and Emergency Services Minister Jo-Ann Miller said the team faced an overwhelming scene when they arrived in Christchurch on 23 February, 2011.

“This Taskforce went straight to work on arrival in Christchurch. Half of the team headed out to search for people amid the rubble and devastation and the other half set up the taskforce operation base in Latimer Square.” Minister Miller said.

“The Taskforce worked 24 hours a day for seven days, and on 24 February, the Queensland Urban Search and Rescue Taskforce was asked by the New Zealand authorities to relieve exhausted local USAR crews in the search and rescue operation at the CTV building site where 115 people died.”

QFES Acting Deputy Commissioner Tom Dawson said the medal recipients were more than deserving of the recognition.

“What these QFES members faced would have been insurmountable to many, but they worked with the highest degree of professionalism, made use of a specialised skill set and worked in a way that would make all Queenslanders proud.”

“Many of these recipients see it as just doing their job – however it needs to be said that it takes a person of rare courage and strength of good will to undertake this type of work.”

Health and Ambulance Services Minister Cameron Dick praised the skill and commitment to care demonstrated by the USAR and AusMAT team.

“Queensland paramedics of the highest calibre joined the rescue effort, locating and treating earthquake victims and ensuring the health of their fellow USAR team members.”

Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services
The Honourable Cameron Dick
Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services and Minister for Corrective Services
The Honourable Jo-Ann Miller
30th of June 2015

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