It is with great sadness that I pay tribute and respect to Garry Ardler, a true leader of the Indigenous community in Kingsford Smith, who tragically passed away on 4 September at the age of 48.
Garry was a champion footballer who captained the 1991 La Perouse Panthers team to victory in the South Sydney junior league grand final over the Coogee Randwick Wombats.
He was a representative rugby player and a champion surfer. His nickname in the community was 'Rat', which derived from the fact that he was known in his younger years as 'the water rat'. He was never out of the water and loved surfing in the local community.
When Garry got married he moved with his family to the south of Queensland to raise his two sons, but he quickly came back home to the people of La Perouse.
He was the coordinator of the Aboriginal men's group in La Perouse, and he was pivotal in achieving an agreement between the Guriwal Aboriginal Corporation, Eastern Sydney Medicare, the local land council and the Cancer Council to improve health outcomes for people in the La Perouse community.
Garry was passionate about men's health issues and would encourage those who had a natural inclination to keep to themselves not only to talk about their wellbeing but to take positive steps to improve their health. He was a gentle giant with a love of life.
I last saw Garry at NAIDOC Week celebrations at the Prince of Wales Hospital. I offer my heartfelt condolences to Garry's boys, Mitcham and Luke, to Paula and Raechael, to his mother, Sandra, and to Rodney and Gayle. May he rest in peace.