A legacy of helping kids

Brian Edward with Geelong children at Licola Wilderness Village this April. (Supplied)

By Luke Voogt

Taking “busloads” of “deserving” children on a yearly wilderness camp continues a commitment that began when former Geelong policeman Brian Edward was a teen himself.

“This is nothing new to me at 81,” the new Order of Australia medallist said.

After joining Victoria Police as a 17-year-old in 1957, Mr Edward began volunteering at a Kilsyth youth group.

He made a huge dint in crime over his 45-year career, from a constable arresting the infamous Wonga Park murderer in 1965, to chief superintendent.

He would again help youths in need during a decade on the board of Bethany Community Support beginning in 2001.

“Policing provides tremendous insight into the problems that some families experience,” he said.

After retiring from the force in 2002, the long-time Lions Club member began applying for grants to take children from Geelong’s eastern and northern suburbs to Licola Wilderness Village.

He started with nine children in 2003, which has increased to about 125 per year, with camps of 108 and 35 this January and April.

The children meet new friends and experience “a degree of discipline” as they take on fun and challenging activities, according to Mr Edward.

“Archery, high ropes, canoeing – you name it!” he said.

“It provides them with new insights outside their normal family environment.”

Mr Edward has secured more than 100 grants and raised $330,000 through Geelong Community Foundation, Geelong Magistrates’ Court and the Wade and Glover family philanthropic trusts.

He gets “great satisfaction” taking the children each year with support from Geelong Corio Bay Lions Club and 30 volunteers.

“They all want to come back next year,” he said.