Langsborough resident Wayne Bass has been awarded the Order of Australia Medal for noteworthy service to youth and to the community of the Latrobe Valley, announced in the Australia Day 2015 Honours List.
Mr Bass, assistant principal at the Morwell campus of Kurnai College, has taught at schools across Victoria, but his work with youth in the Latrobe Valley through the Australian Air Force Cadets has been considered worthy of particular recognition.
Mr Bass told the Gippsland Times he had worked with children for 35 years.
“I was involved with the Little Lakers basketball, giving kids the opportunity to participate in something they liked,” he said.
“A big focus I have enjoyed has been engaging Koorie kids with the ownership of their customs as well.
“The Air Force Cadets is one of those means of giving kids an experience they may never otherwise have had.”
Mr Bass said many of the cadets experienced their first trip out of the Latrobe Valley and over the West Gate Bridge when being taken to Point Cook RAAF Base for their uniforms.
“You can see the thrill in their eyes,” he said.
Mr Bass was instrumental in establishing the AAFC, Number 424 Squadron Number 4 Wing, was its Commanding Officer from 1997 and has been its executive officer since 2011.
He organizes camping and excursions to Canberra and through the centre of Australia, emphasizing Australian heritage.
“It’s about the kids really, giving them the opportunity to see there can be change in their lives,” he said.
Mr Bass described how one particularly at-risk student had been referred to the cadets after he had been written off as uninterested in any form of school work.
Through challenges and opportunities in the cadets he turned around his life and is now a serving RAAF officer.
“The bottom line is to give the underdog a go build up their trust and confidence in their own abilities and show them there is the opportunity to turn things around,” Mr Bass said.
He described undertaking suicide prevention courses and spending a great deal of time counselling youth.
” You have to show them there is light if they go on,” he said.
While Mr Bass and his wife Deb both still work in the Latrobe Valley, they have been part of the Langsborough and Port Albert communities for the past decade.
“We had a holiday house here and found we were spending more and more time here,” he said.
“In the end we had to decide where we were going to live, so we built here.
“In a way the community chose us, welcomed us and we came part of the town.”
In 2007 Mr Bass was founder and joint leader of the Port Albert Junior Fire Brigade.
He is also treasurer of the Port Albert Fire Brigade, a member of the brigade’s management team; fundraising organiser, and for many years has been assistant commander of the local CFA field operations vehicle and logistics section.
“We joined the fire brigade and saw the kids here had little to do other than hang around the wharf and get into trouble.
“So we started the junior brigade.”
Mr Bass said the junior brigade currently had about a dozen members and during the past few years six had gone on to become senior brigade members.
“At last year’s February Delburn fires one of our ex-juniors was the only brigade member on our truck, with a lot of members of other brigades,” he said.
“Although he was only 16, he was able to show those other CFA members everything about how to use our truck, which astounded a lot of those fellows,” Mr Bass said.
A member of the Port Albert Progress Association, Mr Bass described the Port Albert community as a great place to live.
“It’s a very special place; it gives back what you put in,” he said.