28 March 2024

Bravery commendations for Canberrans who fought off 'nightmarish' attack

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Levi Symington and the Governor-General at Government House, where Mr Symington received a Bravery Medal. Photo: Facebook.

As four older Canberrans arrived home one night in Palmerston, they were randomly attacked by a 17-year-old who, it was later established in court, was in the throes of acute psychosis induced by taking LSD.

The assaults were violent, unprovoked, and resulted in the death of an 82-year-old man, who never recovered from his injuries. The scenario was later described in the ACT Courts as nothing short of “nightmarish”.

This week Governor-General David Hurley recognised the outstanding courage shown by the man and his friends in fighting off and attempting to restrain the attacker.

This included knocking the offender out with a shovel before police and ambulance officers arrived. The man was eventually subdued with the help of a full canister of capsicum spray and further restraints.

Bravery Medals were awarded posthumously to the victim and to one of the surviving passengers. A commendation for brave conduct was awarded to a third passenger, all of whom chose not to be publicly identified in this instance.

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Luke Dorsett, who was killed in the 2016 Dreamworld rafting disaster, has also been given a posthumous bravery award after desperately attempting to save his niece’s life in the fatal Thunder River Rapids ride collision in 2016.

Mr Dorsett stopped his niece from falling out of the raft but lost his own life after becoming caught in the ride. His sister Kate Goodchild, and Mr Dorsett’s partner Roozi Araghi, also died in the incident as did a fourth person, Cindy Low.

Mr Dorsett’s mother, Kim Dorsett, told media her son was “loyal to the core” to his family and a protective, loving and devoted uncle.

Three other responders at the scene – Danny Haber, Thomas Hanson and Joedy Vincent – have also been commended as a group for responding immediately to the unfolding tragedy. Mr Haber tried to save some of those trapped in the ride who ultimately died and also carried children away from the scene.

A Commendation for Brave Conduct was also awarded to NSW man Levi Symington, who disarmed an aggressive and dangerous driver in February 2021. The man had used his utility vehicle as a weapon, battering two stationary cars.

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When Mr Symington came across the incident, the vehicle’s wheels were burning out before the driver attempted to lunge towards onlookers. Smoke was pouring from the vehicle, which was also carrying unrestrained aggressive dogs.

But when Mr Symington attempted to intervene, the driver punched him and fought back as Mr Symington grabbed his keys and disabled the vehicle before emergency services arrived.

The Governor-General said he hoped posthumous bravery awards brought “some comfort” to loved ones whose stories should not be forgotten.

Two Australian bravery lists are announced each year. An independent council makes recommendations to the governor general.

Eighty nine people were recognised, including eight bravery medal awards, 38 commendations for brave conduct and four group bravery awards, presented to 45 people.

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