WAYNE Gardiner is celebrating Australia Day with his whole family for the first time in seven years, but that’s not the only thing making it special.
The Inglewood resident, Australian Armoured Corp officer and military historian was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to military history and to veterans and their families.
Since he was a teenager, Mr Gardiner had a fascination for the armed forces and veterans’ combat experiences, and continues to share them and educate younger generations about Australia’s military history.
“It’s been my interest since high school when I used to pop up to the Mt Lawley RSL war veterans home and volunteer at the shop there in 1971 where I first met veterans from the 1899-1900 campaign, soldiers that set on the North-West Frontier in India in the 1920s and 1930s, and from the first World War,” he said.
“I kept in touch, talking to them and learning from them, trying to pass on their stories to other people.
“I’ll always have that; that will stay with me.”
Heading his own business as an antique auctioneer and valuer also gave him the flexibility to help raise funds with military auctions for Legacy, which is dedicated to caring for the families of deceased and incapacitated veterans.
He has worked at the Army Museum of Western Australia in different capacities, including curator and now assistant manager, since first volunteering in 1978.
“I felt I fitted into the museum world and continued since those days, I thought I could make a greater contribution that way,” he said.
“Our main focus is school children and our galleries cover all areas from 1826 to the recent campaigns in Afghanistan and everything in-between, male and female service.
“It’s not glorifying war, it’s explaining what’s going on and letting them make up their own minds and move people on from the Gallipoli and World War I experience, which seems to be the focus of Australian military history, and get them onto other aspects such as the western front in the first war, Middle East campaigns, the Kokoda track and bombing of Australia which is the 75th year this year. We lost a lot of people in Darwin and Broome in 1942, the Korean War and Japanese prisoner of war experience or the Malayan Emergency or Vietnam.”
Mr Gardiner said he had seen increasing numbers of younger people take an interest in the country’s military history with the 100th anniversary of World War I.
“The veteran community appreciate that,” he said.
“There has been a renewed interest because there would be few Australians not touched by it; they would have had a relative in the navy, army or air force.
“Now the grandchildren are saying ‘This is interesting, let’s find out more’.”
Mr Gardiner said he looked forward to sharing the news of his medal with his family today.
“We always have an Australia Day barbecue at our place and this year we are keen because my daughter has been in England for seven years with her husband and they’re going to Melbourne to live, so we will have the whole family together,” he said.