MICK Graham might be a tough campaigner for the community, but on the inside he's just a big teddy bear.
The Golden Beach resident (on the Sunshine Coast) was recently awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his extensive work on numerous committees.
But what most people don't know is he has one of the biggest collections of panda bears in the world.
Mr Graham said his obsession with the black-and-white bears began when he first laid eyes on one at the London Zoo when he was just 11 years old.
His collection began in 1961 when he went to China in the merchant navy and asked to see the pandas.
“I was appalled at the conditions they were living in, you couldn't tell the white from the black in their small cages,” he said.
Upon his departure, the Chinese government gave him a keepsake of his visit – a little panda monument.
Although he has lost count of the amount of items he has collected and been given since then, Mr Graham estimates he has around 3000.
The unique items range from paintings and figurines to Swarovski crystals, painted emu eggs, clocks, ties and even rubbish bins collected both within Australia and on various trips overseas.
In 2005 he was almost crowned by the Guinness Book of World Records as the person with the largest panda collection, but a woman from America had slightly trumped him.
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