John William Gardner, known as Bill, was the inaugural president of the Flemington Association and responsible for preserving and maintaining much of what we hold dear about Flemington today.
Bill led a movement in the 1970s that led to the creation of Flemington’s many neighbourhood parks, including those at the Canterbury Street Stables, the Coronet/Crown Street Stables, Farnham Street and Travancore Park.
This was during a period when there was a dire need for open space in Flemington. Bill said, “The awakening came from the women. In those days, if I wanted to have a meeting it would be no trouble to get 20 to 30 people there. Eighty percent of them were women.” Bill talked about the importance of having a place where women could push prams, a place that does not have to be developed, where kids can catch yabbies in the creek again.
Bill also assisted in setting up the community health service, the legal service, the new library and other community services.
Bill said, “I could never stand what I considered to be injustice. The worst sort is when you use that little bit of power you’ve got against someone who’s less fortunate. As a prisoner of war in Germany, I got into trouble for looking after the underdog.”
Bill was born in South Melbourne but grew up in North Melbourne. Along with his father, he was a member of the waterside workers union, with strong Labor values. Bill served in World War II and was held as a prisoner of war for 3½ years. He came to live in Flemington with his wife Millicent after the war, living in Mooltan Street Travancore. He served the local community over 16 years as a councillor for the City of Melbourne, and was the first Labor Lord Mayor of Melbourne between 1982 and 1983.
Heal G, Community Activist: Bill Gardiner, Flemington Kensington News, Winter 1999, p.5
Hansard, Parliament of Victoria, 13 November 2008, pp.4650-1