How do people make high stakes decisions?
Tuesday, November 1, 2016 - 20:30

What goes into making high stake decisions? How do we react when we are confronted with a split second decision in the face of danger? And how does being under pressure shape the choices we make?

Qantas pilot Richard de Crespigny had to make instinctive decisions based on years of experience, when one of the engines of QF32 exploded four minutes after take-off from Singapore. His quick thinking and expertise saved the lives of 469 people on board.

How does time play into decision-making? Some people weigh up all the risks and go about it with reason, while others are impulsive and follow their hearts.

John Taske was part of the infamous Everest Expedition when eight people lost their lives in 1996. John made a life-saving decision to turn back when only 198 metres from the summit.  

Shae Boers faced an unexpected predicament when she found out she had ovarian cancer when she was fifteen weeks pregnant with her first child.

This week, Insight hears stories of people who had to make hard choices when the stakes were high. How did they go about making those decisions and how have they dealt with the aftermath?




Join the discussion by using the #Insightsbs hashtag on Twitter, or posting on our Facebook page


Further Information

Marhaba social group

Marhaba is a private Australian-based social group that focuses on the welfare of LGBTIQ Muslims. A place where religion and sexuality can openly be discussed and reconciled. The best way to get in contact is via their email It is all confidential andchecked regularly.


JENNY BROCKIE:  Welcome everybody, good to have you with us tonight. Dan, you own a small supermarket in Queensland.  Earlier this year two men tried to rob your store. Let's have a look at how you reacted. 




JENNY BROCKIE:  What are you doing there? 

DAN:   Just, trying to get them to leave, basically, in a hurry.

JENNY BROCKIE:  What were you using, what…

DAN:   A cap of Mortein and cigarette lighter. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what made you do that? 

DAN:  Two or three days prior to that I was spraying some wasp nests and if you hit them with the flame they go straight away. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  A bit dangerous? 

DAN:  Probably, probably. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you remember what went through your mind when they first came in because they had guns? 

DAN:   Yeah, about eight years prior to that I had another store in another part of Brisbane and I had someone come in with a knife that morning. Now they got right up into my face before my mind registered what was wrong here. They had a balaclava on and they got right up into my face with a knife at me. Luckily at the time I happened to be cutting a pumpkin with a slightly bigger knife and we had words, I threw my coffee cup at him and I chased him out the door. But ultimately I think it's, you know, it was some kind of training mechanism kicked in.  It happened once and I was never going to let someone do that again and I recognised them straight away for what they he were doing.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you weigh up the risks at all? 

DAN:   No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Of doing what you did? 

DAN:   No.   

JENNY BROCKIE:  Given that they did have guns? 

DAN:   No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Not at all? 

DAN:   No, I think if I had time to weigh up the risks I probably wouldn't have done it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what happened after you did it? 

DAN:   If you watch the footage one of them falls over and the gun falls out of his bag and I think he looks up and thinks well, this isn't going the way we planned. He hands the gun to his mate and they come around at me from either side then and that's when I realised that they weren't going anywhere.  I couldn't get an angle on both of them with what I was doing so I just had to put the can of Mortein and a cigarette lighter down and that was probably when I was actually fearful the most because I thought to myself when I'm crouched down there, um, the first thing that went through my mind is these guys aren't going to be real happy with me. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, and presumably they weren't? 

DAN:   And that when I was sitting there like that I thought I'm going to get my head cracked open this morning.  They're going to get what they want and they're going to give me a crack on the back of the head.

JENNY BROCKIE:  If you'd had other customers in the store do you think you would have made that decision to pick up the can and use the flames? 

DAN:   I don't think I would have, I don't think I would have. 


DAN:   I've been in another scenario once before where I was in a bank robbery in Brisbane, I was doing some banking and…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Gee, you've had more than your fair share…

DAN:   I have, I have. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Of this stuff. 

DAN:   Yeah, trouble knows where I am all the time. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Sorry, I interrupted you, go on. 

DAN:  That's alright.  So I was doing the banking, I actually had the money on the counter at the Westpac branch that I was robbed in, when the guy came in, and I grabbed the money and lay down on it, hoping he wouldn't see it.  And he came over to me, teller to teller and teller and then he wanted to stand on me and look over into the teller's drawer so he give me a swift kicks in the ribs to get me to move over and while he was standing on me, I had my head down and I can remember thinking to myself if I roll out here, he's going to fall.  There's enough of us in here to jump on him. That second, as I was thinking that, a shell casing fell down that he put a shot into the roof and then I looked up across at a lady who was in a foetal position on the floor crying her eyes out and the next thing I thought of if I do that and he falls and accidently shoots her, where does that leave me?


DAN:   So I think I've had some experience in those situations where I can sort of, you know, if people are around I won't do crazy things like that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Do you think it's a crazy thing now that you did? 

DAN:   Yes, but  who's to say if I had just crouched down, done exactly what they said, I wouldn't have got a smack in the back of the head for my trouble anyway, so you know, give them more time to get away. There are so many variables that could have, would have, should have happened, but it turned out well, I got out, no one got hurt.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Lauren, two years ago you made a split second decision to rescue two little boys from drowning. Where were you and what were the conditions like in the water? 

LAUREN:  Um, we were at Coffs Creek in Coffs Harbour, my husband, my two year old son and I.  It was, it was a nice day, there was like people everywhere, but it was a king tied and there were two little boys swimming just past the breakwall and I didn't see them in trouble until their mum on the side started screaming, "Somebody help my boys". 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How far away were they from you?

LAUREN:  Oh, probably about six, seven metres. So I was just waist deep, I was eight and a half months pregnant.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you think about the risk to you and the baby when you jumped in the water to save those little boys? 

LAUREN:  I don't think I did. I could see the boys were climbing up each other and they were both under the water. So I just …

JENNY BROCKIE:  They were pushing one another? 

LAUREN:  They were pulling each other down trying to get up, yep. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Did you have a plan? 

LAUREN:  No, because when I got to the boys I went under as well. So if I had a plan, yeah, I might have thought how do you tread water with two boys under your arm? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  When you're eight and a half months pregnant? 

LAUREN:  Yeah.  But no, I didn't so once I got there we all went under and someone jumped in and saved all three of us which is where everything, yeah, the hero. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What did you think afterwards about what you'd done? 


JENNY BROCKIE:  Was it instinct what you did do you think? 

LAUREN:  I think so, yeah.  So I think deep down I knew I was a strong swimmer, that I'm confident. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And afterwards? 

LAUREN:  … you do if you see someone drowning. Like yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And afterwards, what did you think? 

LAUREN:  I was in shock for a while. I knew it was important that the mum was so appreciative and…

JENNY BROCKIE:  I bet she was. 

LAUREN:  And hugged me, yeah, and the man that saved me was amazing.  His family were so proud of everyone, like of him and me, but I think it was the reaction of the public after that made me realise what I'd done. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you didn't really think that much about it? 

LAUREN:  No, no. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Richard, on the 4th of November 2010 you were the Captain of flight QF32 from Singapore to Sydney. You had 469 people on board. Four minutes after take-off what did you hear? 

RICHARD:  There were two explosions, which is not normal, and it sounded like a backfire in a car. So it could be one engine backfiring or surging or failing, or it could have been two engines having trouble, but I didn't really know which one it was but it didn't really matter anyway.  We're trained when things go wrong, we're trained to pretty well instinctively go into a, into our procedures to fly the aeroplane, keep it flying, and then we have a structure for recovering and landing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What did you do, did you have a moment of emotional response? Did you have a moment of fear?  Was anything like that in the picture? 

RICHARD:  No, it wasn't really time for emotion. I didn't actually have emotion till about six hours later after the event. So what happens is we are trained in simulators to, to, when these things go wrong, it really, it brings in an almost instinctive reaction to protect the aeroplane. So we practice this and these become habits and instincts.  So we do the drill, we stabilise the aeroplane, we call that AV8 and then we navigate so we build up a plan and keep away from the mountains and then we communicate. We tell the passengers what's wrong and we recover the aeroplane. So there's a lot of money spent on aviation to skill the pilots so that when things go wrong, they tend to not panic and they keep calm and follow a logical and slow process to, to guarantee coming home. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Clare, you were on that plane and you had a clear view of the damage. How did you react when you heard the two explosions and what did you see? 

CLARE:  Well, I immediately looked out the window, I saw a huge amount of fuel flying out from behind the wing. Initially some sparks, so…

JENNY BROCKIE:  What was that like? 

CLARE:  I just knew that this wasn't right. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Now Richard, one of the other pilots made announcement, let's listen to that. 




PILOT ANNOUNCEMENT:  I do apologise, I’m sure you are aware we have a technical issue with our number two engine, we have dealt with this situation at the moment. The aircraft is secured at this stage, we are going to have to hold for some time whilst we do lighten our load by dumping some fuel and number of check lists we have to perform and as…

I’m sure you are aware, we are not proceeding to Sydney at this stage, we are making a left turn now track back now towards Singapore and as we progress with this we will keep you informed. At this stage everything is secure, the aircraft is flying safely and we will get back to you very shortly with further information. Thank you for your patience.


JENNY BROCKIE:  So calm. Clare, how did you react when you heard that? 

CLARE:  Well, that was good because I was looking out the window thinking this is not good.  At one point when a piece of wing flew across the top, when they did the first turn a piece of wing flew across the top of the wing, I asked the girl in front of me who was also, her face was pinned to the glass and said:  "Did you see that", and she said:  "Yes, I'm going to say it was a bird." I thought this isn't helpful.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Meanwhile Richard, what's going on in the cockpit, what had you, what had you worked out had happened? 

RICHARD:  Well, it didn't, we actually didn't really know what had happened. We did about a hundred check lists in the air.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And there was noise in the cockpit, let's have a listen.  While you're prioritising I just want people to hear what you're hearing in the cockpit. Okay, so this is going on while you're trying to…

RICHARD:  That's an attention getter. 


RICHARD:  To say something's wrong.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How were you making decisions though during that time about, you know, what had happened, what to do?

RICHARD:  It didn't matter what had happened, that's behind us, pilots don't like at what's happened, we just focus on what's ahead. So we had an engine that was damaged and fuel systems, out of twenty two systems on the aeroplane, twenty one were affected.  So we had to try and fix the things that were broken, work out what we had left and then work out how we were going to land it.

JENNY BROCKIE: Were you scared during that time you were trying to work out what to do next? 

RICHARD:  There wasn't time to be scared. I never reflected back on the flight. I never, I never stopped to take account of where we were. Pilots are always fighting the enemy in front so we've got check lists, we've got things to do. So I never, I never thought about where we were overall, I never thought about my wife and family because we're there to do a job and that job's to save the passengers and that's, that occupies all of our thoughts.   We were airborne for about one hour and fifty minutes and then there was another two hours on the ground so it was a spectacular event. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How much were you having to change that plan as you went along? 

RICHARD:  Oh, the plan is totally dynamic, what pilots are always taught to do is to evaluate the decisions, and if it's not getting the right result, to change it.

JENNY BROCKIE:  How do you train yourself out of having an emotional response? 

RICHARD:  Well I think … 

JENNY BROCKIE: Or a fight or flight response? 

RICHARD:  I think the military and the police and the airlines probably recruit people that tend not to panic. About 10 to 15 percent of the population, when they're struck with something unusual, will tend not to panic and they'll do something instinctive out of goodwill for their neighbour or because they've been trained to follow through a drill. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So do you panic about other things? 

RICHARD:  Pilots tend not to panic. 




ROB, CLIMBER:  John, are you headed back down?

JOHN:  There was a hold up, there are no fixed ropes above the south side.

ROB:  Yeah, I know mate, we are sorting that situation out now.

JOHN:  We’ve run out of juice waiting, cold…sorry.

ROB: It’s your call pal.


JENNY BROCKIE:  John, that's the movie version of your 1996 Everest expedition, you look like you're going for a walk in the snow in a movie a little bit, don’t you, compared to what I know it was like. What actually happened at that moment when you were near the summit of Mt Everest? 

JOHN:  That's really yes, it's a story, it's not the, not a documentary, so very much Americanised. But at that time there was no storm, it was just below the south summit which my altimeter said just 198 metres sort of the summit, but that's still about three hours climbing. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what you were doing then?  You were turning around and going back before you got there? 

JOHN:   I decided to turn around at that point and come back down. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Just give everybody an idea of what a big decision that was, and I want to have a look at how far you'd climbed here.  We've got a graphic here just showing the route that you took. Can you talk us through this, so you went from base camp? 

JOHN:   Base camp up to camp one, which is about 21 or 6,000 metres, it's about 6,500 metres to camp two and camp three is 7,200 metres. Camp four of the South Col is about 7,500 and the top is 8,848 metres.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why when you were so close to the summit did you decide to turn around? 

JOHN: It was a decision because we were, I was out of time. I'd been held up the night before getting there because our team was moving slowly. One of the team members, Doug Hanson, was ill, and I didn't know that because we're strung out up the mountain. But we were held up for about an hour and a half and then another hour and a half at the balcony where there were a group of not very well trained climbers climbing a small section. And they hold me up for half an hour and at that stage I had a chance to look at my watch and it was now, it was 11.30 when I arrived there, it was now midday and we made a plan to turn around if you couldn't see yourself on the summit by 2 pm, because that was the plan for various reasons. And at now midday, I could not see myself on the summit before 3 o'clock and with the slow fellows ahead of me probably 4 o'clock, and that, I did what's called a military appreciation. 

I'd spent a lot of time in the army and, very much like Richard was saying, you're trained to do things and in a military appreciation or appreciation of any plan where lives are at stake, there are drills that you go through. And there are certain limits which you dare not transgress and one of those is that if you've made a plan, well considered, logical, calculated plan, you don't change that plan for any emotional reason.  Unless something catastrophic happens you stick to that plan, otherwise things go pear shaped. And our plan was to turn around and the logical part of my decision that day was easy. The emotional part of course was the fact that I'd just spent six years and a heck of a lot of money and basically and did nothing about eat, climb and sleep and work for a number of years before we got there. So I was turning my back on that which was just two hours away, three hours away. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Not everyone took that decision, that same decision that you did? 

JOHN:   No, unfortunately not. There's a, in fact it's got a name, they call it summit fever. When people get to the top they cast aside logical plans and logical turnaround times because the summit is so close, they've invested so much in it, both physically, financially and psychologically that they keep on going. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How many people died on that climb? 

JOHN:   Eight people died. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Eight people? 

JOHN:   Eight people and Rob Hall who was shown in that section there, he went on and he died.  I turned back. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And he was the expedition leader? 

JOHN:   Yes he was. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So he had been part of that plan as well?

JOHN:   He'd basically made the plan, yes, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What would have happened if you, if you hadn't made the decision you made? 

JOHN:   If I'd gone on? 


JOHN:   I have little doubt that I would have died. I would have …

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why, what, why was it so dangerous to keep going at that time? 

JOHN:   There was a storm came where the temperature was 40 below zero and the winds were up to about 180 kilometres an hour so people got frost bite and died. But what went through my mind at the time was something that we all knew but in the appreciation you go over the things that you know. By 4 o'clock, if I was on the summit at 4 o'clock meant I won't be off the mountain back to the safety of camp four by 6 o'clock, it got dark around about 5.30 so I'd be coming down the last parts of the mountain in the dark.

The oxygen I had would run out at about 4, 4.30 and at that level, even though you're only getting a little oxygen, it does make a difference.  When the oxygen runs out you really get disoriented. I would have been more fatigued than I was now and we'd been climbing constantly for many, many hours at that stage.

Most people die coming off a mountain, more people die coming down than going up, and also the weather sometimes blows up. Even though I had no idea there was a storm coming at that time, it often blows up and makes things a little more tricky. So all of those things went through my mind and I could see the risks escalating and the logical decision was to, to cut and so I did. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was it an easy decision in those circumstances? 

JOHN:   The logical part of it was easy. The emotional side of it, missing out on the top when I was so close and I felt well enough to get there, I had little doubt I would get there, but to miss out when you knew you could get there but you realised the logical decision was to go, that was difficult, the emotional side of it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How do you think you would have gone in Richard's situation and vice versa? I'm really interested in this because you both very wedded to this idea of a plan, that you had a plan? 

JOHN:   I was listening to Richard they're just wonderful words, he's talking about two things, talking about panic and logical decisions and you know, one of the military units I served in there was a sign that we always had in our minds, panic kills. And less than panic you have emotion, you have logical decisions, you have transforming into some emotional input into the decisions, to a lot of emotional input into the decision to panic, and that's where things go wrong. If you panic you are paralysed. If you're in a situation like Richard was saying and you didn't have a drill to go through, that's when panic sets in. But you have all these drills, they're automatic procedures that you go through, it makes it a lot easier than most people think. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Richard, you made a big decision in the air though that veered away from established emergency procedure and I'm really interested in that, given, given, you know, the importance of the plan and so on. Tell us about control checks, the control checks that you decided to do and how they work and why you did them? 

RICHARD:  Well, before we made our approach I was very concerned because we have lost 65 percent of our roll control and that brought up the question that the check list did not, would we be able to control the aircraft when we slowed and configured to land? An aircraft, an LL aircraft in Amsterdam had crashed in 1992 when they didn't do the control checks.  So this is something which every Air Force person is trained to do if the aircraft gets hit by ground fire or a mid-air collision, they basically test fly or do a dress rehearsal of the landing at a safe height to determine or to prove that the aircraft is safe to land. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How do you do that, how do you do a dress rehearsal of the landing in the air? 

RICHARD:  Well, you, as we slow we actually brought it back to the configuration with the flaps and the landing gear that we would land at a landing speed, but every time you make a change, one change, I would aggressively manoeuvre the aircraft to see if it would depart. Now if it did depart, then you would know that that last choice was unwise and you would come back and reselect something.  You're at a safe height to prove the aircraft in case something goes wrong. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So are you overriding what the system is telling you to do at that point? 

RICHARD:  Absolutely, yes, yes.  It helps no one if you follow every rule and you don't survive. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was what you did risky? 

RICHARD:  It is, it is one thousandth of a risk to do a control check than to make an approach without doing it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was it a smooth touch down? 

RICHARD:  It surprisingly was. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And in the end, how much time was there between the explosion and when you actually landed the plane? 

RICHARD:  One hour and fifty minutes from the explosion to when we landed and again that was spent trying to understand the aircraft we had. We were criticised for staying up too long.

JENNY BROCKIE:  John, how long did you have to make your decision about whether you were going to keep going or turn around? 

JOHN:  About thirty minutes and I didn't have 198 or whatever it was people relying on me, just myself and two others that I talked into coming back with me, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you talked people into coming with you? 

JOHN:   Mmm. They were, I met them just as I started back down, after saying, telling Rob that I was heading back and they were coming up in zombie mode, plodding along and I pulled them up and said ‘where do you think you're going’ and they said oh, heading for the top. And I said look at the time and it didn't take much to convince them that it was better to come down. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how did Rob react to you turning around? 

JOHN:   He was disappointed because he loved to help with logistical supply to get people to the top, but what I didn't, I thought about it a lot later, why didn't I question him? Why did I accept the fact that he went on when I could see full well that he was breaking his own rules? And, but that's probably the lack of oxygen, the hypoxia at that level. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So was there a sense of guilt about that or? 

JOHN:   No, no, Rob, he could have been going, I knew he was going up to look after Doug Hanson who subsequently died with him. But no, Rob was the world's strongest western climber at that stage, who would I be to question him what he was doing, really? No. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Shae, yours is a very different story to these? 

SHAE:  Very. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Tell us what doctors discovered when you were fifteen and a half weeks pregnant? 

SHAE:  They discovered that I had a very aggressive ovarian cancer. I think they said it went from, at twelve week, I can't remember the exact sizing, it was about 11 centimetres to when it was actually removed it was around 20 centimetres. They said it was like a volley ball. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What did they suggest you do at the beginning? 

SHAE:  Aww, the beginning was horrible, they basically came in and dropped this bomb and then said, it’s okay, it’s early enough that we can terminate the pregnancy, you’ll be back in in a couple of days to have a full hysterectomy – remove this and that.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Joanne, you're Shae's mum, what did you want her to do? 

JOANNE: Well I wanted her to terminate the pregnancy and I realised very early on in the diagnosis that our wants were the same. Like oh, I felt a bit emotional. I wanted to save my baby and she was wanting to save hers and I realised I had to step back and let Shae listen to her body and do what she wanted to do. But yeah, it was difficult. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So what decision did you make at that stage, Shae? 

SHAE:  I was, all along I was having the baby. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  No question? 

SHAE:  Oh, no.

JENNY BROCKIE:  A few days later, after it was clear that you weren't going to go with that option, you were given three other options.  What were they? 

SHAE:  One was to do absolutely nothing and hope that I'm one of the very, very rare people who a cancer like this doesn't progress and hasn't spread. The second one was to do nothing for the short term, be induced, so I could have the baby at, about between I think they said 24 to 28 weeks, and then the final one was to do chemotherapy while I was pregnant.  But the problem was, they all had problems, all three options were not, were far from ideal. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what did you decide to do? 

SHAE:  I decided to go with the chemo.  It was, that was the one that…

JENNY BROCKIE:  While you were pregnant? 

SHAE:  Yeah, that was the one that the oncologist was recommending and I mean the option to do nothing wasn't, I probably would have just done that but, yeah, I couldn't do it for like, I realised it's not just me, I've got a mum and a sister and a husband at the time and so it was all very, that wasn't going to happen. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Okay, so you weighed that one up? 

SHAE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about the other option of having the baby early? 

SHAE:  The 28, the birthing at 28 weeks, I was for a while thinking this could work. I, we had a friend who worked in the NICU and she said come in and just see what you're looking at and I went in and I remember seeing this tiny about little 28 week old baby and it broke my heart. I can't do that him, that's, I can't, that would be awful. So I wanted to go with the option with the least risk so that's why we went with the chemo. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So was that difficult making that decision? 

SHAE:  Huge, yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How long did it take? 

SHAE:  I'd say it was probably a good, a week, yeah, about a week, week and a half before I actually, before I was fully convinced that this is the right thing to do. The biggest problem for me with that option was though that they didn't really, they weren't really sure what the chemo would do. There wasn't a whole heap of sort of, there wasn't a lot to say that it was going to be okay or not.

JENNY BROCKIE: But there was a big unknown? 

SHAE:  There was, there's nothing to say that there would be any, you know, abnormalities and I just remember hearing him say, he was going you don't sound very confident. Could you maybe tell me that you're sure? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Was the decision made with your head or with your heart? 

SHAE:  It was made with my heart but it was other people's heads. I tend to just, I do everything by my heart. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you're the opposite to these two guys? 

SHAE:  Yeah, this is why I'm thinking, I’m going oh, can't say I would have, I probably would have not gone with you down the mountain because I would have been like but I want to. I'm a bit more like that. 

JOHN:   I'm also a doctor and an anaesthetist so I see a lot of cancer patients and this would have been an absolutely unique situation. There would have been no rule book for a pregnant woman with a ovarian cancer to then continue the pregnancy and have chemotherapy. Really out of the box. So that's why they could give you no guarantees. But obviously, I mean I'm saying so after the fact but at the time I would have said the most logical decision was the one that you made, that was with her heart but also the most logical decision. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What would you have done in that situation if it had been your wife or your daughter? 

JOHN:   Oh, boy, that does bring it home. But no, I’d have…

JENNY BROCKIE:  Well it's interesting because it's taking you out of the zone that you're used to making decisions in? 

JOHN:   Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And I just wonder whether you'd have been able to apply those same very logical, you know, applications.  Whether you would have had those very logical applications to that kind of situation, or whether emotion would have been a bigger factor? 

JOHN:   Jenny, definitely emotion would have been a bigger factor but no, as Richard says, I think both of us have learned to be able to put emotion to one side when you're making decisions about, about, massive decisions such as this. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Could you have done that Richard do you think? 

RICHARD:  Well, when you get the unknown, unknowns, the black swans, the things that no one's prepared for, then there really is no prepared defence and the only thing that you can really be your guide is your values and beliefs and your emotional core, which is you can't explain in words, but that will drive you and that will determine if you understand what you're really thinking, what you value, that which for me on QF32 was the passengers.  So the aircraft was just a screwdriver, didn't matter, just a tool, but the passengers were important, so we get to a certain point where you do become, you do trust your emotional core and that's what you did. 

SHAE:  I don't think I could be a pilot. Everything I do is run by emotion and I tend to…

JENNY BROCKIE: But you made massive decisions? 

SHAE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You know, they were massive decisions? 

SHAE:  Yeah, they were.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Nur, you made a series of very high stakes decisions which had a huge impact on your life and your community. What you do decide to do? 

NUR:  I came out earlier this year as a gay Imam, Australia's first gay Imam. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Now you serve a congregation of hundreds of people in Melbourne. How high were the stakes in doing that? 

NUR:  Oh, very high. You lose that platform and there's even a risk to your life. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Why is there a risk to your life as a Muslim leader? 

NUR:  The conservative school of thought in Islam to deal with homosexuality, being gay, lesbian, transgender, is to be killed and that is your repentance to gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven. So, risks were quite high and I have family as well and part of the risks was that my family was going to be targeted because of the principle that I stood for. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Now you had been married earlier and you'd told your wife about your sexuality. When had you done that and how big a decision was that for you? 

NUR:  It took, I mean we have a child, my daughter, and I was married for one year because I could not do it to an innocent person, I could not bring this girl into my web of lies. As a Muslim leader or generally as a Muslim, once you reach a certain age you're expected to get married and that solves all your problems, and have children and so you know, when you have these issues within you as a gay person, in an environment that is hostile to even discussing this topic, you have one of two options. Either you give in to the pressure of getting married, which I did, or reject everything, reject your faith, reject your family and move away. And I had a problem with that.  I lasted one year…

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what happened when you told her? 

NUR:  She felt betrayed and it took a while for her to recover from that. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And your family found out? 

NUR:  Yes, correct. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how did that play out? 

NUR:  So it was a big shock and, but I decided to take advantage of that story and/or that journey that I went through and make something positive out of it and I tried to help other families now cope with how to deal with a family member who's gay, lesbian, transgender, because, and it's been successful thus far. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  How risky was it for you to decide to be public about this, to speak publicly? You spoke on The Feed on SBS? 

NUR:  Correct. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  About this, how risky was that for you? What did it mean potentially? 

NUR:  Um, one of my teachers when I was memorising the Koran, he used to make us, before we decide any, before we take any steps he would make us think of a thousand outcomes and he'd always make us sit down and write them down and he would make us start from worst case scenario. I thought carefully when I decided to, this year in particular to speak to the media, I started a group that looks after the welfare of LGBT Muslims.  Next month in fact will be our third anniversary. So when I decided to start this group, I didn't come up with a thousand outcomes but I really thought carefully of the consequences. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What was the worst case scenario that you had? 

NUR:  Death, being killed. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  That you'd be killed? 

NUR:  Correct. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how real a fear was that for you and is it still a fear? 

NUR:  Um, look, you know, I'm not, there's a famous Arab saying, they say:  "Melemyeil----", "if you don't die by a sword or a gun you will die by something else in the battle field." Death has many ways but eventually we all die. But what I had a problem with was not that. I could sleep with that. But what I could not sleep with seeing injustice being done repeatedly to young individuals from my community, and the wider community, by family members. That I could not accept. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Erik, you survived the Bali bombings, you helped save lives at the Sari Club and you received a hero's welcome when you came back to Australia, but that didn't sit well with you. Why not? 

ERIK:  Um, when the bomb went off, I was going in and out of the Sari club, I'd probably been in and out a half a dozen times, pulled people out, and as I worked my way deeper into the club I heard three girls crying and I looked and a section of the roof, probably eight, ten metres across, had fallen down and it was a thatched roof and they were crawling out and crying for someone to help them and I had to make the decision whether I would do that. 

And my heart was telling me these girls needed me and my gut instinct was telling me that it was a foolish thing to do because I could never survive it. So I had to turn around and find somebody else to help. Whew, I've only admitted this in the last few weeks, it's very tough. I've taken ownership of the decision to hand in those girls and I found it very, very, very hard to forgive myself. I thought I had abandoned when these girls needed my help. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  But you'd helped so many people, you'd helped other people before this, right? You'd gone in and out of the club? 

ERIK:  Yes, but I don't, my life has never been about the things that I've done, I tend to live life by the things and experiences I haven't done, and when I got back to Australia and people are calling you a hero, I felt a fraud because there was a number of things I hadn't done. I hadn't saved those three girls.  I could only see the things that I hadn't done and I lived in shame for a long time, as I said it's only…

JENNY BROCKIE:  But you kept that yourself, you kept that feeling to yourself? 

ERIK:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  For how long? 

ERIK:  Um, nearly fourteen years.  I only took ownership of the decision perhaps three to four weeks ago. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And what prompted that, what prompted you to do that? 

ERIK:  Probably it started this year, my mum died and I was very close to my mum and she was always my rock.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And have you talked to anyone about it, have you sought help to talk…

ERIK:  I had counselling and the counselling was good but the thing that counselling does, counselling forces you to be honest with yourself.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Does the logical part of your mind recognise that that was probably, you know, the only decision in a way that you could have made. Otherwise you would have died as well. 

ERIK:  I tell myself that every day and every night before I go to sleep I try to reconcile that but you know, and I'm sure these guys have all done it as well, you go through the what if scenarios.  What if I'd done this, what if I'd tried this way, could I have gone around?  Could I have run really fast across the top, would I have made it?  There's all these situations so in essence, making the original decision was the easy thing. Living with the results of that decision for me, the emotional side has been the hardest part. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And do you remember much about the decisions you made at that time in that crisis situation, because you made numbers of decisions? 

ERIK:  Well not really, because it was a bizarre situation, there was cars burning, people running around on fire, people bleeding, there was blood and guts everywhere, there was a tremendous, there was fertiliser in the air because it was a fertiliser bomb, the heat was intense. I just ran back, started going back into the Sari Club. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And doing what when you were in there? 

ERIK:  Just grabbing anybody I could and pulling them out.

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you did help people on that night? 

ERIK:  Yeah, I pulled people out. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Yeah, you're almost reluctant to admit that? 

ERIK:  I don't, I don't look at it in terms of people I helped. I look at it in terms of people that I couldn't help and didn't help. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And why do you think that is? 

ERIK:  I think it's just the nature of the way that I am. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Mmm. And how do you feel about it now when you say that in the last little while, you know, you've decided that you want to talk about it and deal with it, how do you feel about it now? 

ERIK:  Look, it's a relief getting it out and not trying to hide it and not feeling a fraud any more. But it's still a difficult decision to live with that three girls were relying on me and I let them down. 

MALE: It seems like one thing that you couldn't look at if you had saved them, you might not have been able to save the other people that you did save. 

ERIK:  Yeah, it's difficult though because they were there and that was them. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Has it made it easier or harder for you to do what you've done in the last little while in relation to this? 

ERIK:  I guess Bali gave me a purpose, to try and help people out there because you know, six Australian men a day commit suicide and having been so close to that myself, I feel a kinship with those guys and I think that yes, I've got to put myself out there and talk about depression and talk about counselling and dealing with it and coping with it.

RICHARD:  Erik, I had a lot of post-traumatic stress after my incident and it occupied my, all my sleep, all my day time, all my time with the family which meant that I didn't because I was reliving the incident twenty four hours a day, I would wake up exhausted and doing the what ifs, and I was dysfunctional and I identified that and I went away from, left flying for four months and the emotions that you have are deep in your mind.  They're emotional, you can't put words to them but when you discuss it, it makes you cry and I cried when I revisited it, but when you talk about it the way you are, and women are good at this, they put their emotions on their sleeves and they talk through it, it actually brings it into context in your whole mind, it puts it into a balance and you realise that none of this was your fault. You were given a bad pack of cards and you saved lives, you did a whole lot of good. You can't be responsible for everyone. 

DAN:  I think what we're seeing here tonight is looking at it, instinct is word that keeps coming up again and again and again. You've got trained instinct over here, you've got heart felt instinct over here, you've got what I did, which I thought was basically, you know, animalistic instinct, fight and then flight and run.  You listen to your instinct and I think that tells you everyone here's listened to their instinct at some stage and we're here to tell the story and it's come out okay. And my reckoning from just that says to me that your instinct not to go in there after pulling all those other people out was the right thing to do. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What are you all like at making decisions in the rest of your lives? You know, not in an emergency, not in the middle of a crisis, Shae? 

SHAE:  Like I said, I'm, I could never be something that required you to use your brain before your heart because I would go heart first, 99.9 percent of the time. I'm lucky I've got people around me who go mmm, are you sure? 

JENNY BROCKIE:  What about the rest of you? 

RICHARD:  I dislike restaurant menus.  I dislike doing trivial decisions, Obama I think wears the same suit every day, he doesn't want to waste the decision on deciding what to wear and I just order the fish off the menu and I, but if there's a good challenge, then I enjoy a good challenge of a difficult decision and I'll say well let's invert the logic and think of what you never imagine doing and, so I'm not afraid of decisions, I just don't want to spend all day doing them. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Just don't like them very much. What about you John, what are you like at decisions? 

JOHN: I'm afraid I have to admit with large decisions I have no problems at all because you can go through a logical process. But little decisions like cleaning up or throwing stuff away, I have, I agonise over it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  You're a hoarder? 

JOHN: My wife will be listening to this, still I find it very difficult. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  See I find that so fascinating.  So you're an agoniser in other parts of your life? 

JOHN: Yeah, many times I go through and I'll throw, I'm about to throw, no, perhaps.

JENNY BROCKIE:  Shae, you had your chemotherapy? 

SHAE:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you had your baby? 

SHAE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  At 38 weeks? 

SHAE:  I did.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  How old is Spencer now? 

SHAE:  Spencer's 7, he turned 7 in September. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And you then made another really big decision, there's that heart again.  You then made another really big decision to have another baby? 

SHAE:  Yes.  

JENNY BROCKIE:  A daughter? 

SHAE:  Yes. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Called Harper? 

SHAE:  I had a little girl called Harper. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  And that was risky for different reasons. 

SHAE:  Yes, so basically after Spencer was born my oncologist said right, the best thing that's going to prevent, you know, keep your life and prevent cancer coming back is going to be you having a full hysterectomy and straight away I was like really? I was a bit stubborn about it but said no, I'm having two and I refused to let cancer make that decision for me.    

JENNY BROCKIE:  So you're really putting yourself at risk again? 

SHAE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  At this point? 

SHAE:  Yeah. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  To have a second child, to not have that hysterectomy to guard against the cancer? 

SHAE:  Yeah, exactly.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And how are you and the kids now? 

SHAE:  Yeah, we're good, we're really good. They're fun, they're gorgeous. 

JENNY BROCKIE: And Dan, would you do anything differently do you think faced with that armed hold-up that you had? 

DAN:   If the circumstances varied, if it was exactly the same, then yeah, of course I'm going to fight to try and get myself out of that situation like I did.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Nur, what about you, if you had your time over would you do anything differently? 

NUR:  Um, not at all. Not at all.

JENNY BROCKIE:  And Erik, hearing the encouragement you've had from the people in this room about your decision? 

ERIK:  Look, I guess I've gained comfort with my decision, you know, my gut instinct has always told me it was the right decision to make.  I've just got to live with the emotional side of it. 

JENNY BROCKIE:  Well thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your story tonight, all your stories tonight. We really appreciate it, it's been really very interesting. Thank you very much. And that is all we have time for here, but let's keep talking on Twitter and on Facebook.  Thanks very much everybody, thank you.