When professor Len Notaras AM travelled to Darwin in the 90s to rebuild an ailing hospital system, there was only one full-time surgeon on staff.

Now, Professor Notaras has been recognised on the Queen’s Birthday honours list for his work at the helm of the country’s leading COVID quarantine facility.

His team at the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC) played a key role in supporting thousands of repatriated Australians at the Howard Springs quarantine facility before handing the reins to NT Health last month.

To date, the NCCTRC team has helped ensure the NT has had no cases of community transmission since the pandemic began.

Professor Notaras said his appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia filled him with pride and gratitude.

“For me, it represents the work of a lot of people who have enabled me to do what I have done,” the centre’s executive director said.

The quarantine facility has helped repatriate thousands of Australians stranded overseas.(

AAP: Glenn Campbell


Professor Notaras is one of 63 appointees in the Queen’s Birthday 2021 honours list recognised specifically for their contribution to Australia’s response to the COVID pandemic.

Despite the success of the Howard Springs facility, Professor Notaras said there had been some doubts about getting it up and running.

“But to actually activate that and to pull it together within days — that in itself was breathtaking.

“Not to have a leak out of that place, when we are hearing so much about hotel quarantine in other places.

“We set the world standard.”

It is not the first time Professor Notaras has faced seemingly impossible odds and challenges — from working to save Timor-Leste’s president Jose Ramos-Horta by bringing him to Darwin following an assassination attempt to overseeing Australia’s response to the 2002 Bali Bombings.

Professor Len Notaras stands inside a warehouse, smiling at the camera.
Professor Notaras said he had faced many challenges and emergencies in his career.(

ABC News: Tiffany Parker


“The greatest joy is to watch people grow and give them the opportunity to do the undoable sometimes,” he said.

“Some of the challenges are enormous and not once have I been disappointed. And this goes all the way back to Bali in 2002.

“People would say: ‘That couldn’t be done, not in the old Royal Darwin Hospital — the dinky old hospital as it was’.

“There were two resuscitation beds — not rooms, beds.

Professor Notaras said the credit behind his recent accolade should be shared with his team.

Two AUSMAT team members on the military aircraft.
Professor Notaras said AUSMAT crews had faced more than 30 significant deployments over the past two years.(

ABC News: Nicholas Hynes


“At times I was criticised for spending too much money and building things up, but to see it where it is today — I burst with pride,” he said.

“I have nothing but praise for the people who have worked out there every day tirelessly.”

The Queen’s Birthday 2021 honours list recognised 1,190 Australians.

The 63 Australians recognised for their coronavirus contributions will be included in a permanent and ongoing COVID-19 honour roll.


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