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Baines OAM

Leading Disaster Management Specialist


Peter Baines OAM, is one of Australia’s leadership experts having road-tested leadership the hard way. Peter spent 22 years with the NSW Police leading teams in response to acts of terrorism and natural disasters on a scale not previously seen.

Peter was part of the leadership team that responded to Bali after the bombings in 2002 and was called in 2005, to lead international teams in response to the Tsunami of December 26, 2004, in South East Asia. Peter headed up multiple rotations into Thailand leading international teams in the identification process of those who died. All the time his leadership theories were tested in this trying environment.

Creating sustainable leadership became a passion of his after witnessing the devastating effects of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. He was deeply touched by the number of children left without parents by the disaster and was inspired to set up an organisation that could make a significant difference in the lives of these children. In late 2005, Hands Across the Water was formed to raise funds for and awareness of, the children of Thailand who were left alone. Today Hands has raised over $30 million Australian dollars. Hands now have operations in seven different locations within Thailand and provide a home to several hundred children every night.

The work of the charity has always taken a different approach to most in that they focus on creating meaningful shared experiences for their supporters. A cornerstone event of the work of Hands are the long-distance bike rides that you will find Peter leading throughout the year in Thailand.

His final years with the NSW Police were spent on secondment to the National Institute of Forensic Science where he worked on national and international capacity-building projects around counter-terrorism and leadership. He spent time advising Interpol in France and the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime in South East Asia.

Peter was engaged by the Government of Saudi Arabia following the deadly floods in Jeddah, to review their response and provide advice concerning crisis mitigation and leadership. In 2011 he deployed to Japan in response to the tsunami that would claim thousands of lives there.

Peter has received various awards including an Order of Australia Medal in 2014, for his International Humanitarian work, and in 2016 he was awarded The Fifth Class of the Most Admirable Order of the Direkgunabhorn awarded by the King of Thailand.

In 2010 he was a NSW finalist for the Australian of the Year awards and he was the first Australian to be awarded the international honour of a Rotary Professional Excellence Award in 2008. He received the NSW Police Service Medal and the Australian Federal Police Operations Medal, for his work in Asia. He was the first NSW Police Officer to be awarded the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal and Australian National Medal. He has completed university studies in Law, Forensic Science and postgraduate studies in Management.

Peter has written three books the latest released in 2023, Leadership Matters published by Wiley. Hands Across the Water was his first book and was published by Pan MacMillan in 2011 followed by Doing Good by Doing Good, published by Wiley in 2014.

When not travelling for work you are likely to find Peter with his wife Claire on their rural property tending to the Hereford cattle they bred. His other pursuits he tackles with a passion for flying helicopters and running ultra marathons. In 2024, to acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the 2004 tsunami he will run 1320 kms in just 26 days in Thailand.

Talking Points

Leadership without Authority

Peter is a masterful storyteller that brings together his experiences working in crisis and disaster situations across the globe with meaningful and relevant lessons to his audiences who are looking for inspiration, clear and defined learnings and a dose of perspective to the challenges we face in business and life. The origins of his story commence with the Bali bombings, and the Boxing Day tsunami but they are the launching pad and his story and messages continue to evolve with the work he current does as an Internationally recognised humanitarian and philanthropist.


Peter has this unique ability to move his audiences through a range of emotions during his keynote presentations. They will laugh, they will cry and importantly they will remember. Whilst many of his stories come from the field of crisis and disaster, they are anything but sad. His story is an uplifting one that will have the audience asking themselves, what more can they be doing? The inspiration comes partly from his relatability as a simple policeman who continued to say yes, leading to the building of the largest Australian charity contribution to Thailand, saving and improving the lives of thousands of children.

Key Outcomes:
- Improved confidence in decision-making by understanding that making the wrong decision is better than making no decision.
- Increased awareness of value of presence in leaders. Leaders don't have to have the answers or bring about change they do need to be present.
- Confidence in finding their own limitations; we often allow others to impose their limitations on us.
- An acceptance that true leadership is less about position and title, but actions and reactions
- A belief that our biggest wins are often achieved when we are on edge of our perceived limitations

Challenge of our Time

In the new keynote the Challenge of our Time, Peter reflects on the value of finding a journey that is worthy of our heart and soul. He considers what are the six growth areas before our leaders of today and our emerging leaders of tomorrow, and he provides a way to meet those opportunities.

Peter draws on lived life experiences of leading international teams through crisis and disaster as well as twenty years as an internationally recognised humanitarian. He continues to deliver his stories in a uniquely captivating way.

Below are the six contextual areas he focuses on with the new keynote, along with the learning outcomes for the audience:

SCALE THE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM: Not let perfect be the evil of good, the importance of starting and hopes are greater than our fears.

TRUST TRUMPS COMPETENCE: Recognise that building trust will outweigh competence, consistency and culture will trump competency, our struggles shape our purpose.

COURAGEOUS LEADERSHIP: Doing the right thing, not necessarily what’s popular, growth is found on the edge of our limitations, and courageous leaders build their own redundancy.

AUTHENTIC OPTIMISM: Dangers of cruel optimism, accepting we can’t overcome what we don’t face and giving information you get understanding

PERILS OF RISK AVOIDANCE: Recognising the value of accepting risk, risk of reaching for rules, considering long-term implications of short-term risk avoidance

CREATING RESILIENT LEADERS: The benefit of believing, not letting the struggles of yesterday define tomorrow, and growth are found on the edge of our limitations.
Peter is an absolute professional - from the moment he is booked, to the moment he exists stage, he delivers. His keynote had our audience enthralled - you could hear a pin drop for the entire hour Peter spoke. It's not every day you get a glimpse into the world of forensic policing in crisis situations - moving and insightful. Thank you for sharing your story Peter, the world needs more people like you. Registered Clubs Association of NSW

Peter was fantastic, delivering a touching keynote address that kept the audience engaged. Structuring it around the key leadership skills required meant delegates received immediate value and had tips to go back and test in their own workplaces.

National Safety Council of Australia

A memorable day where the important became real and where an ordinary man became extraordinary. Your presentation was without a doubt the most brilliant I have ever had the privilege to experience.


Peter Baines is an inspiration to us all. The experience, skills and knowledge that he has gained from managing high pressure situations in disaster zones allows us to put our own stressful lives in perspective. We can all benefit from his simple yet engaging message, and we can be inspired by his stories of human courage and bravery!

Think Global Consulting

And so much of what you had to say has lessons that can be used in the leadership work I do with our senior executives here at the CBA. I would have liked to say something to you at the end of the session but couldn't really trust myself to speak.

Commonwealth Bank Talent & Development

I recently attended the breakfast at the Hyatt in Adelaide. Peter spoke on the work that he has done in the disaster area that was Thailand after the Boxing Day Tsunami. Never in my life have I been so intrigued, so interested so absolutely blown away. But most importantly he spoke of his actions as part of a team and really outlined the importance of team work and leadership, not just in bad times, but in everyday life. Peter is an incredible speaker and has his audiences full attention the whole time he is speaking. I laughed and I cried during Peter's presentation and by the end I was totally overwhelmed.

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