Part-time Santa at Westfield Belconnen, John Rundle, relaxes between shifts in a back room.

Part-time Santa at Westfield Belconnen, John Rundle, relaxes between shifts in a back room. Photo: Graham Tidy

EVERY year for nearly two decades, John Rundle has donned a red velvet suit and long white beard, and played Father Christmas to a generation of Canberra children.

The former police officer from Scullin had been retired for a couple of years when he saw an advertisement seeking men to play Santa Claus.

Looking for a way to help others, he signed up, and started out at the Tuggeranong Hyperdome, later moving to Westfield Belconnen Shopping Centre.

Part-time Santa, at Westfield Belconnen, John Rundle, has his photo taken with eight-year-old Ryan Prichard of Gungahlin.

Part-time Santa, at Westfield Belconnen, John Rundle, has his photo taken with eight-year-old Ryan Prichard of Gungahlin. Photo: Graham Tidy

This is Mr Rundle's 19th year playing the big man from the North Pole.

''I just love working with the kids, and I love conveying the message of goodwill and happiness and joy to the children, and just seeing the joy on their face when they come up and sit and talk to Santa,'' he said.

It is not always an easy job, Mr Rundle said, and the honesty of children meant they sometimes told Santa things that their parents wished they had not.

''Physically and mentally, it's quite stressful because you've got to be on the alert all the time - I relate it very much to my previous occupation where you never know what's going to happen next,'' he said.

Children are not the only people who want to talk to Santa.

He hears the worries of plenty of grown-ups who are feeling down or concerned and are looking for a trusted figure to whom they can unburden themselves at Christmas time.

''Generally I like to be just a little bit of a sounding box to them, a wailing wall, because that's all they're looking for. They don't want someone to come up with a solution, I don't think. They just want someone to listen to them,'' he said.