Committed to caring for vulnerable children

CAPTION: Private Wayne Drage shows a child how to use binoculars during a demonstration at Exercise Rocky Ready, at the Rockhampton Showgrounds last year. Story by Sergeant Matthew Bickerton. Photo by Corporal Madhur Chitnis.

Jonathan Church Good Soldiering Award

The Jonathan Church Good Soldiering Award acknowledges junior soldiers and officers who consistently demonstrate Army’s five values and who embody Army’s contract with the nation. The recipients attended a ceremony to receive their awards on March 1 at Russell Offices, Canberra, to coincide with Army’s birthday.

One of this year’s four recipients is Private Wayne Drage.

Providing foster care for his community’s most vulnerable children, while managing society’s most dangerous men, Private Wayne Drage brings empathy and compassion to the coalface of trauma.

Infantry reservist Private Drage, of 31st/42nd Battalion Royal Queensland Regiment, has three children of his own, but can have three to four foster children in his care at any given time.

“You’re getting kids who have the most horrendous stories you’ve ever heard,” Private Drage said.

Once, after taking in a child from tragic circumstances the day before her birthday, his family made sure she woke up to presents and a celebration.

“First thing is creating an environment that keeps them feeling secure,” Private Drage said.

More than 20 children have found solace in Private Drage’s home in the nine years he’s been fostering.

None of that would be possible, Private Drage said, without the strong relationship with his wife of 22 years, a woman he described as the backbone of the family.

He said his own children played a big role in creating love and security for the children they foster.

The iconic image of Trooper Jonathan Church carrying an injured child who survived a Rwandan massacre in the 1990s is one that resonates with Private Drage.

“I’ve been trying to save kids for a long time,” he said.

“The embodiment of this award resonated with me deeply. It’s such a big compliment.”

Private Drage works full time as a tactical response officer for Queensland Corrective Services.

In addition general guard duties, he handles more serious situations when fights break out, or staff are threatened by inmates.

Last year, Private Drage performed CPR on an inmate after he was knocked out by another inmate during an altercation. His actions, and those of his colleagues, saved the man’s life.

It’s also not uncommon for corrections officers to find inmates attempting suicide.

“I’m not a ‘Care Bear’ by any means at the jail. I escalate as required, but I absolutely take more care of prisoners with mental-health issues,” Private Drage said.

“You can’t look at every person the same way. Some things you can’t control.”

Through his own initiative, Private Drage developed a remote parenting program for inmates, which he volunteers for in his spare time.

“I’ve had a lot of success. Prisoners will come and say that their relationships with their kids have improved,” he said.

Private Drage is heavily involved in Army community engagement. His unit commended his knack for recruiting.

“When the parents see how positively their kids respond to us, it draws them in. They see the example we set, and it becomes something they want,” he said.

Private Drage credits the people around him for his successes, which he said is shared.


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