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The Darwin Mosque in suburban Wanguri

One of our sources in the Northern Territory labor movement has told us that Matthew Gardiner, the former union secretary and Territory Labor President who breaking reports say has gone to Syria to fight against the Islamic State has left three young children behind in Darwin.

A former official from the Australian Education Union (AEU) NT P has told this site that at the time he left the Territory approximately 6 months ago Gardiner was married with three young children, the youngest of whom is under the age of two.

The official – former Union President Matthew Cranitch told us that he was stunned by today’s revelations, and said that although he had personal reservations about Gardiner, most in the Labor movement considered him a moderate who had proved a unifying force among members of Unions NT (the Trades and Labor Council equivalent).


Bet Gardiner’s not smiling right now

“Matt and I fell out at the time I announced I was running as an Independent Candidate against Labor in the Blain By-Election” said Cranitch. “Our relationship was forever fraught thereafter, particularly given aspects of his behavior toward me after I told him of my concern that the Labor Party was actively involved in covering up sexual abuse of children by some of the party’s supporters . Nevertheless I am shocked at this afternoon’s media reports and would never have thought he was the sort of person who would abandon his family and his country in this manner.”

“Everyone I have spoken to in the Territory this afternoon is stunned” Cranitch added. “Matt was a very reserved sort of person and it was always hard to read what was going on his mind. I can only presume from what I have seen first hand that he has suffered some type of progressive breakdown that has led to this bizarre act”.

Cranitch said that it was not uncommon for some to suffer what Territorians call ‘mango madness’ at this time of the year, with the extreme heat sending people over the edge and into a form of madness.

“Southerners laugh about people in the Territory ‘going troppo'” Cranitch told us “But it really does happen. I don’t know whether it has been a factor in Gardiner’s case but it can’t be discounted. His behaviour has appeared unusual for some time”.

Cranitch  said there is a large Muslim community in Darwin, centered around the Wanguri Mosque in the city’s suburbs.

He told us that Gardiner would have been dealing with union members from the Islamic faith on a regular basis, and that he also had worked with members employed at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre where asylum seekers, including children, are held in conditions akin to a prison.


Darwin’s detention centre

“Who knows what has caused him to take these actions or how his interactions with those who practice Islam has affected him?” asked Cranitch. “My guess is that whatever it may be has has become too much for him and he has simply gone mad. How else can you explain it?”

“I don’t know what he hopes to achieve and it’s very, very sad that he has left his kids and the rest of his family in the situation in which they now find themselves. I don’t know how he can live with himself”.