A Ballarat nurse has received the International Red Cross' highest honour, the Florence Nightingale Medal, for his humanitarian work overseas - the first male to win the award since 1920.
QuickFit Delacombe gym owner Nick Prince has completed 17 international deployments with the Red Cross movement including four with the British Red Cross and 13 with the Australian Red Cross - the most recent to Hungary last year to support the Ukraine crisis.
He's negotiated with war lords, treated landmine victims, and helped support millions of people displaced from their homes.
His humanitarian work has placed him inside some of the most significant conflict zones and natural disasters of the past 25 years including Afghanistan, Kosovo, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Azerbaijan, eastern and southern Africa, and South Sudan.
He was also contributed to the public health response during Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh and Sulawesi earthquake in Indonesia, in Malaysia managing health responses for the Rohingya population movement, and was a roving pandemic preparedness coordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross through the Asia-Pacific in 2020.
During his deployment to Hungary last year, Mr Prince worked across 17 countries to implement clinical and public health programs with displaced Ukrainian refugees, while also working with the Hungarian Red Cross to build their capacity.
Making a difference
It is the humanity of people impacted during crisis that kept Mr Prince active in the sector for so long despite the work taking a physical and mental toll.
"I think after my first deployment it really matched my values and it continued and it just became part of me I guess.
"The deployments were different parts of the world and different conflicts but it comes down to providing that care ... there's the Geneva Convention, international humanitarian law ... and you are there ensuring that people have access to what is rightfully theirs, the humanity side of things."
Mr Prince began his service in clinical roles, including treating the victims of landmines, and moved on into health promotion, public health and leadership roles.
A vital role for impartiality
Working for the Red Cross means no matter what your personal views might be on each side of a conflict, you put on your impartiality like a uniform so you can reach the best outcomes for people who need help.
"Personally you have opinions but when you put your hat on for the Red Cross it's the same as a judge or lawyer, same as a nurse in hospital, you treat perpetrators, survivors and victims - you put the uniform on and you are a different person.
What the donor and community see is very different to what you see on the ground. When you are in the field a person suffering is a person suffering. Mothers in Ethiopia and Sudan are just as distressed when they see their children die as they would be anywhere else in the world.- Nick Prince
"We take no sides, we give through need regardless of who they are and that's what makes (the Red Cross) unique but enables them to provide to people in need when there's a conflict."
That includes negotiating and having discussions with all parties to a conflict, identifying where prisoners of war might be, and using international humanitarian law to ensure those who need health support receive it.
"It's an experience that very few would get and the opportunity to see things from a humanitarian perspective.
"If you start saying one side is good or bad, they are not going to allow you access to prisoners of war and no one will see them and they are forgotten about," he said.
The personal price of helping others
The price of providing that much-needed and life-saving aid is often a personal one.
During a stint in Kosovo during the war in 1999, Mr Prince and other humanitarian workers were evacuated to a building in Pristina which in turn was bombed. Mr Prince had to venture to the top of the building and stick out a satellite to let forces know humanitarian workers were in the building.
"They were doing precision targeted bombing and it was quite a frightening time. And on the roads we had our cars stopped at checkpoints and it was quite harrowing," he said.
During the Second Intifada in 2004, Mr Prince was a health coordinator in Israel and the Palestinian territories, working across the both the Palestinian Red Cross Society and the Magen David Adom (Israel Red Cross), navigating areas inaccessible to local population groups due to movement restrictions.
"We were escorting ambulances into Gaza, but being international you had that access to everywhere."
'A person suffering is a person suffering' no matter where
Mr Prince said media attention often skews how the rest of the world view natural disaster and conflict.
"Our big focus now is what's happening in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank and suddenly we've forgotten all the other things going on around the world ... the Nigerian hostages taken, drought and famine in Africa, but they don't have the same kind of media attention.
"When people put money in to help humanitarian funds they are influenced by what is a strategic interest or what's near to them. Ukraine at the time got a huge amount of funding globally, in the billions, yet there was probably only $36 million for the whole of Africa ... but they have no country to go to, no EU next to them to support and provide for them.
"It's a huge challenge for us in humanitarian work. What the donor and community see is very different to what you see on the ground. When you are in the field a person suffering is a person suffering. Mothers in Ethiopia and Sudan are just as distressed when they see their children die as they would be anywhere else in the world."
What a future looks like in Ballarat
Mr Prince's most recent international roles have been around coordination of health provision in trouble spots and he took his final position in the Ukraine knowing it would be his last.
"I did know there would be an exit at some time. It's taken quite a big physical and psychological toll on me," he said.
Many people question how opening a gym in Delacombe almost five years ago fits into Mr Prince's global humanitarian activities but for him it is simple - the gym grounds him, giving him something to look forward to when returning from a war zone or disaster zone, and is a way of continuing his work to help and support people.
"One of the reasons that actually led to the gym was seeing how much more you could can do to improve people's health through a population-based approach," Mr Prince said.
"We have some of the highest cardiovascular disease rates, obesity, suicide in the Ballarat region and regional Victoria and in our little small way here in the gym we are not just addressing the physical but mental health and support of our local community so it's not that different from what I was doing."
Mr Prince said he experienced a "reverse culture shock" returning to Ballarat from conflict and natural disaster zones and the gym helps bring him back to ground and readjust.
During the COVID pandemic he also worked as part of the vaccination team at Ballarat Health Service and the Alfred Hospital, vaccinating health care workers and performing COVID testing.