An endless curiosity and a gift for teaching and learning has seen Jannali’s Ray Biddle awarded the Medal of the Order of Australian (OAM) for service to the community in a range of roles.
Mr Biddle, 92, volunteers every week at the Australian Museum which he has done since 1987.
He is also a life member of Miranda Probus Club, Kogarah Bay Sailing Club and the Caravan Club of Australia.
A shipwright by trade, Mr Biddle worked at Garden Island for 15 years. He started the Garden Island Social Club in 1954 organising a Christmas Party every year for about 2000 children of workers at the naval base.
Mr Biddle became a teacher of shipbuilding at technical college (now TAFE) and eventually became assistant principal at the School of Engineering Trades at Ultimo.
He and wife, Win, now deceased, raised six children at Jannali and became involved in caravaning to take their family on school holidays.
Mr Biddle still enjoys volunteering at the Australian Museum every Tuesday.
He said a highlight of the job is showing overseas visitors and school children around the museum.
“I don’t do any guiding now because I find my legs won’t let me but I look after the museum’s touch tables which have various artefacts. I enjoy answering visitors’ questions,” he said.
He has also had the pleasure of guiding his great-grandchildren through the museum on their many visits over the years.
“They love going to the museum and I take them around,” Mr Biddle said.
“I still get a lot out of my involvement with the museum,” he said. “There are about ten volunteers and it’s like a second family. It’s a social event, too. We have quite a lot of discussions. It’s surprising how much knowledge you get. Many of the volunteers are ex-teachers. Our discussions can start as a simple conversation and finish up quite deep because of the knowledge people have got to share.”
Mr Biddle has seen many exhibitions at the museum over the years.
“The exhibitions that attract the most people are anything to do with Ancient Egypt,” he said.
It is a subject that has fascinated him since childhood and he was finally able to visit Egypt at age 86.
“My daughter, Julie, won a place at the official ceremony Centenary of the Gallipoli Landing in 2015 so we travelled to Turkey and then onto Egypt and I was able to satisfy the yearning to visit.”
He still sees volunteering as enjoyable.
“What I’ve done are things I wanted to do myself. My attitude is if you are in something you are in it boots and all.
“I’ve always been involved.”