Wandong’s Anzac of the Year

Wandong History Group president Karen Christensen and her mother, Kathleen Christensen, front, with Kilmore-Wallan RSL president Rod Dally, RSL Victoria vice president Des Callaghan, Wandong History Group member Lynne Dore and Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell.

By Jackson Russell

Wandong History Group president Karen Christensen’s dedication to ensuring her town’s service men and women were honoured has resulted in her receiving one of five ANZAC of the Year awards.

The ANZAC of the Year award aims to recognise the achievements of up to seven Australians who have given service to their fellow Australians and to the community in a positive, selfless and compassionate manner.

Ms Christensen received the award on Wednesday at a small presentation in Kilmore, which included RSL Victoria vice president Des Callaghan, Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell and Kilmore-Wallan RSL president Rod Dally, in lieu of the usual presentation at the RSL State Conference.

She was nominated by fellow Wandong History Group member Lynne Dore for her dedication as a volunteer and her work on in developing the Wandong Heathcote Junction War Memorial.

As part of the war memorial committee, Ms Christensen has identified 181 men and women from Wandong, Heathcote Junction and Clonbinane who had served their country and published several books about the military history of Wandong and its residents.

She is also working on establishing a museum in Wandong in which her research and stories about the area’s soldiers will be displayed.

Ms Christensen said the award came as a surprise.

“The things we do, we don’t do them expecting awards, we do them because we believe in the cause, so it was a big surprise and a little embarrassing because I believe there are a lot of people involved in the things we do, not just me,” she said.

Ms Christensen said she was astounded by how many soldiers from the area she found in her research.

“We’d seen a few in the hall in Kilmore but very little mention of it. To find there were so many who left from here and Clonbinane was amazing and sad at the same time, because they’d never really been recognised like they had in other parts of the shire,” she said.

“If you look at Wallan and Kilmore, they had memorials built a long time ago and had their soldiers recognised but our soldiers weren’t.

“It wasn’t until we were able to do our memorial that we fixed that, and that was the opportunity we took to try to make amends for what happened so that was a lot of the reason behind it all.”

In his letter of support for Ms Christensen’s nomination, Mr Mitchell said she had gone above and beyond in ensuring ANZAC soldiers would be remembered.

“In the years that I have known her, she has shown the utmost dedication and respect for the service men and women of our community; her determination will ensure their service is recognised for generations to come,” he said.

Ms Christensen thanked the RSL for selecting her and everyone who supported her nomination.

“I think it’s an honour and it’s really for our soldiers. That’s how I view it, as something that helps bring their stories to people, and if it does that, that’s an even bigger honour,” she said.