Courage on display

COURAGE: Adrian Vanas tells his remarkable life story to students attending the Courage to Care exhibition.
COURAGE: Adrian Vanas tells his remarkable life story to students attending the Courage to Care exhibition.

ONE of the heroes of the Beaconsfield Mine collapse, Darren Flanagan, is being honoured during an exhibition comparing the horrors of war to the pain caused by bullying and racism.

The Bomaderry explosives expert has been profiled in the Courage to Care exhibition, that focuses on how lives can be saved when individuals are committed to making a difference.

That commitment was shown following the Beaconsfield Mine collapse, when Mr Flanagan worked for up to 29 hours without a break as ice-cold water soaked him to the bone, carefully testing, charging and firing explosives to create a safe tunnel through which trapped miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb could escape.

Mr Flanagan will join Shoalhaven Mayor Paul Green and media identity Richard Morecroft to officially launch the local exhibition, which is being staged in the Shoalhaven City Arts Centre from October 18 to November 11.

Details of Mr Flanagan’s work will be set alongside the feats of extraordinary individuals who put their own lives on the line to stand up against intolerance and discrimination during World War II.

Established 10 years ago to use the past to help promote the anti-bullying, anti-racism message, Courage to Care has been seen by more than 200,000, more than half of them students from years five to 12.

Throughout the time the exhibition is open in Nowra it will be staffed by volunteers including several Holocaust survivors and people who risked their lives to save Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazis.

These rare individuals use their personal stories and experiences to help empower individuals to make a difference in the world.

“Trained facilitators run the workshops that follow, encouraging students to question instances of racism, intolerance and discrimination, asking how they can make a difference,” said Shoalhaven City arts and events manager Rachael French.

One of the exhibition’s organisers, Andrew Havaas, said the workshops frequently opened the eyes of students and adults to the implications of their behaviour.

“We’ve had instances where a whole group or an entire class has apologised to someone who has been bullied,” Mr Havaas said.

Hosting the exhibition was “quite a coup for Nowra,” he added.

Life risked to help others

FOR a long time danger and fear were constant companions for Adrianus (Adrian) Vanas, who will be one of the volunteers with the Courage to Care exhibition in Nowra.

Mr Vanas was not supposed to be in Europe when war broke out, but about a thousand Jews owe their lives to that twist of fate.

Raised in Indonesia as a devout Christian, Mr Vanas went to Holland to complete his studies, and was ready to return home to Indonesia when the Germans invaded. Stranded, the young man in his mid-twenties did the only thing his conscience would allow – he joined the Resistance movement that opposed the occupying Nazi regime.

He got a job working in the Westerbork transit camp, from where thousands of Jews were transferred to the Auschwitz and Sobibor extermination camps in Poland.

At the camp Mr Vanas, as an employee of the Dutch government, was in charge of the distribution of food.

As part of the Resistance movement he removed names from deportation lists, supplied false papers, found and established safe houses for those in danger, all the while knowing he would be executed if found out.

“You never knew if you were going to be alive the next day and the pressure was phenomenal,” Mr Vanas said.

“But we saw it as a calling. We felt we had a responsibility to help our fellow man.”