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Helidon Spa man helps keep the legend of Anzacs alive

DEDICATION: Emu Gully Adventure Education Group director Barry Rodgers was named in the 2014 Queens Birthday honours list.
DEDICATION: Emu Gully Adventure Education Group director Barry Rodgers was named in the 2014 Queens Birthday honours list. Tom Threadingham

THANKS to one Helidon Spa man and his dedicated crew, the Anzac legend will live on for many years to come.

Acting as a historical guardian, Barry Rodgers has devoted the past 20 years of his life to not only preserving the Anzac spirit but passing it on to other generations.

Instead of a library full of books however, Mr Rodgers strives to provide his history lessons through real-life experiences and re-enactments on Australia's wartime heroes at the Emu Gully Adventure Park.

Mr Rodgers' passion has not gone unnoticed, as he joins one of the country's most regarded lists by being awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his "service to youth, and to military history organisations".

The military history buff said he was shocked by the honour.

"It's a bit surreal, I don't like a lot of the limelight so it's a little embarrassing," Mr Rodgers said.

"I prefer to just be in the background doing my stuff."

"I feel embarrassed to receive it because there have been so many other people involved in the story."

Opening Emu Gully Adventure Park in 1995, Mr Rodgers said he aimed to put a face to history with interactive learning programs.

"There's a philosophical underpinning to what I do and I've been in education for a fair bit of my life and a lot of education is about information and getting and learning how to use that information," he said.

"But not a lot of it has a lot to do with developing character and developing character values in young people's lives, and that's the thing that drives me.

"The Anzac story and the legacy of the Anzacs with the character values of courage, sacrifice, mateship, perseverance work really well with a lot of our activities built around epic Anzac events.

"It's a hands-on history lesson to an important part of our heritage but it also confronts them with those values that we try and transfer into real-life situations."

Mr Rodgers got his first taste of Emu Gully in 1992 and didn't take long to take his passion for teaching experiential history to the next level.

"I came to Toowoomba in 1992, I was a founding principal of a school in Melbourne, the Hillcrest Christian College, and I was there for 12 years," he said.

"I took a six-month sabbatical to work on an overseas aid project I was involved in getting off the ground which taught small business principles and arranging small interest loans in developing countries, and it was based in Toowoomba so I came up here.

"And liked it so much up here that I decided to stay.

"I had an aeroplane and my daughter, we've always had horses, so we looked for a bit of ground that had room for an airstrip and room for horses.

"One of the local church groups or schools wanted to have a camp here and I was always a great believer in experiential education so we started Emu Gully Adventure education in about 1995."

Since first opening its doors, Mr Rodgers and his dedicated team have grown Emu Gully into a highly desired location for community groups and schools and has held the popular Air and Land Spectacular for the past five years.

"I am surprised and grateful (for how it's grown), we have over 15,000 young people booked in this year and a huge waiting list trying to get in," he said.

Mr Rodgers said he hadn't been a fan of history lessons at school but had always had a passion for it.

"I used to hate history at school, it was all about dates and places and it was dull," he said.

"I like bringing history alive and putting a human face on it, that's why I'm involved things like being the director of the Australian Light Horse Association.

"The great pinnacle of my life, pretty much, is taking and leading 70 light horsemen through the desert in the steps of the light horse tour, charging across the plain at Beer Sheva in Israel.

"We did that on the 90th anniversary of the charge in 2007 and we followed in the exact footsteps that the Australians took to reach Beer Sheva."

Topics:  emu gully, helidon spa, order of australia medal


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