A keen interest in World War II and the history of war in general, inspired 15-year-old Thomas McKenzie to volunteer as a Young Ambassador for the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
The Shepparton local is one of only eight young people to be selected for this prestigious program, in which he is involved in regular ceremonies and events hosted at the Shrine.
Thomas was born with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
For Thomas’ mother Linda McKenzie, seeing her son take on such a wonderful opportunity is inspiring.
‘‘We are very proud of Thomas, firstly because he hasn’t let his autism hold him back, and secondly that he was given such an opportunity,’’ Ms McKenzie said.
‘‘We were nervous, but we knew he would do a good job.’’
The Shrine Young Ambassador program started in 2006, following the launch of the Shrine Education department the year before.
The program aims to create a community of young people to carry on the memories and stories of men and women involved in war and peacekeeping.
The young people are appointed for a 13-month period, attending events such as Remembrance Day, Legacy Day and Anzac Day.
The Young Ambassadors also take a trip to Canberra to visit the Australian War Memorial.
Thomas attends school in Benalla, where he often visits the aged-care facility.
This has made him a wonderful listener and a perfect ear for the veterans.
‘‘It’s nice to make a difference in the lives of the veterans,’’ Thomas said.
The McKenzie family will be making the trip to Melbourne for the Anzac Day dawn service in which Thomas will march down the concourse with the veterans, and other military personnel.