The Bush Search and Rescue unit was established in 1936 after a party of four young men set off to follow the Grose River.  They left word that they would return in three days.  Instead, eight days later, after a frantic search by land and air, they were found almost dead from hunger and exposure.

Both the Police and the Federation of Bushwalking Clubs realised that some sort of organisation was necessary to assist lost or injured people in the bush.  As a result, half a dozen keen walkers, including Paddy Pallin, formed the Search and Rescue section of the Federation, known as Bush Search and Rescue.

As their expertise became known, their role expanded to include assistance to other members of the community where their bush skills were applicable, such as looking for missing children.  For 50 years, they acted as a community service and self help organisation for bushwalkers, thus making it the oldest land based volunteer rescue organisation in Australia.

In 1970, Bush Search and Rescue joined the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association, whose member squads assist the statutory emergency services (Police and Ambulance) on request.

 Evolution to a modern squad

In the early 90’s, the appointment of the NSW State Rescue Board led to changes in the way search and rescue was conducted.  These changes led Bush Search and Rescue to make adjustments to be able to integrate seamlessly with the other emergency agencies.   To facilitate this, a rigorous new training program was implemented, based on State Rescue Board requirements and National Training Information Service competencies.

In 2001, Bushwalkers Search and Rescue restructured to form an incorporated body, known as Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad, reflecting its expanded role in providing rescue services for all wilderness situations. In 2017 the squad changed its name to Bush Search and Rescue NSW to better reflect the squad’s purpose.

Today, our members are still experienced bushwalkers and canyoners, who can travel through rough terrain safely and quickly, day or night, in any weather.

Each member is completely self contained with food, shelter, clothing and equipment for 72 hours of operations in the bush without further support.

Our membership includes a wide range of skills and expertise such as:

  • vertical rescue
  • canyon search and rescue
  • river crossing and swift water techniques
  • rock climbing
  • bush skills & wilderness navigation
  • alpine work
  • professional guiding experience in the above disciplines
  • radio operators

We are proud of our history as the oldest volunteer land rescue squad in Australia.

Keith Maxwell is interviewed by George Moore on radio station 2UE from 1990’s.

Keith Maxwell is interviewed by Paul Bevan on radio station 2NC/2UH from 6/4/1992 about a Barrington Tops search exercise (and no, we still have not found that plane…. but we are still looking every year!)


Historical photograph courtesy of Andy MacQueen.