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Design and Features

Discuss about the Australian War Memorial.

“Many a man lying out there at Pozières or in the low scrub at Gallipoli, with his poor tired senses barely working through the fever of his brain, has thought in his last moments: 'Well – well – it's over; but in Australia they will be proud of this.'" These are the words of Charles Bean, the official war correspondent of the 1st Australian Imperial Force (AIF) that lead to the conception of the Australian War Memorial. This idea came to him when he saw the bravery and suffering of the soldiers in the 1st AIF in the battlefields in Pozières and Gallipoli between 1915 and 1916, it was then that he decided that their ordeals will never be forgotten (Australian War Memorial, 2017). Bean envisioned a place where the family and friends of the soldiers buried in faraway lands could come grieve and remember their loved ones, eventually the idea evolved not only to be a shrine to the fallen soldiers but also be a house to keep relics and trophies from the battlefields (Australian Heritage Database, 2017). The Australian War Memorial was opened in 1941 (Anderson, 2012).

The initial design by Emil Sodersteen and John Crust still form the basis of the building up to today. The main building is surrounded by an open landscape, to the west of the building is located a sculpture garden that contains the sculpture of Bellona (Roman goddess of war) and the merchant seamen roll of honour are on either side of the sculpture. The lone pine tree is also located on the west side of the building. Memorial plaques, a large gun from HMAS Adelaide, the sculpture of Simpson and his donkey and first world war guns are the main features of the landscape. The main building is a two storey building with a cruciform plan, the entrance is monumental with its large pylons and massing. At the entrance are two stone medieval lions that previously stood at the gateway to Ypres. The Hall of memory is the main architectural feature with its stepped cubic form and copper dome it was built to host the roll of honour of fallen soldiers. The pool of reflection and roll of honour are in the courtyard, at the northern end of the pool is the eternal flame and at the southern end is the inauguration stone. The courtyard is flanked by carved gargoyles. The Anzac hall sits behind the iconic main building. The memorial building showcases important history of Australia, social values, it serves an educational purpose and it is aesthetically pleasing making it culturally important to the society.

 The Australian War memorial is a time machine that allows the present generation to see the achievements of the past generation and it will serve the same purpose to future generation. In 1952, the war memorial was expanded to include all of Australia’s wars. Information on Australia’s involvement the first world war to wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan can be found in the memorial building. The Holocaust display has artefacts from Jews who survived and escaped the persecution and made Australia their new home, a third of these artefacts were donated by Jews. The collection includes video testimony, identity cards and belongings of survivors, these artefacts serve to remind of the atrocities that were committed on minorities (The Canberra Times, 2016). Dioramas on display give a three-dimension depiction of the battlefields that the soldiers campaigned in, these give a vivid representation of the conditions they endured, photographs, films, sound recordings, official war documents and diaries give a clearer picture of the triumphs and fears of the soldiers in the battlefield. The Hall of valour displays Australians who have been awarded with Victorian cross, this is the highest award for bravery in times of war. Over 100 Australians have been awarded the Victorian cross and over 60 of them are on display along with the stories that led to the recipient receiving the award. (Smith, n.d). Dunant (2012), states that “a society that does not pay proper attention to its history in not only shallow but also risks starving its own imagination.” History is important in moulding the identity and social values of a nation and it is a pre-condition of political intelligence. Without history, a society shares no common memory of what their nation has been through or what their core values are. The war memorial building resonates with all Australian’s and provides a sense of belonging to all and from the historical war information future decisions can be made that cater to the needs of the present and future generations, the memorial is an important cultural link.

Educational and Cultural Significance


History as a subject is important in nation building activities, by understanding the consequences of the choices made by past generations, the present generations can make informed decisions and confront problems with better awareness and understanding of the consequences (Department of History,2017). The materials housed in the memorial building can be used for research in disciplines such as social studies, political studies and military history. The artefacts and stories from different cultures and places, open the mind of young students who visit the museum to a comprehensive understanding of the world that there exist many cultures and different way of life from their own. By portraying all these different cultures an impression is left on the minds of the young visitors that appreciates the different peoples of the world and their share humanity and common problems (Department of history,2017). The whole Australian war memorial is a major reminder of the devastating effects of war from this constant reminder humanity learns one crucial life lesson on the importance of peace. The roll of honour is a reminder of those who lost their lives to protect the rights and freedoms of the present generation. Fields such as engineering also benefit from the artefacts on display at the memorial, the tanks and fighter jets can be used to pass information on past engineering, the first engineering designs  contain the basic principles that lead to the great designs witnessed in the present day.

When the war memorial was taking shape in the early days of its conception Charles Bean insisted that derogatory terms should not be used to describe former enemies and the memorial should not glorify war. Charles Bean envisioned a world where peace would prevail. The memorial is a sign of world peace and reconciliation between former enemies. The memorial receives visitors from all over the world, the year ending 2015 Canberra received 4.4 million visitors. Interaction between the international tourists and local Australian’s at war memorial provides a great platform to build cultural understanding, war memorials give visitors a place to reflect regardless of what region they come from or which side their country fought. (Griffith News, 2017). The use of non- derogatory term on former enemies shows the peaceful nature of Australia’s people. The idea of Bean portrays the memorial not only as a reminder of the wars but also the importance of reconciliation and respect to former enemies.


The war memorial and its surrounding garden add great aesthetic value to the landscape of Canberra. In 2016, the Australian War Memorial was named as the number one landmark in Australia by the Trip Advisor’s Traveller’s Choice award (Visit Canberra, 2017) and was ranked 23rd in the world’s top 25 man- made category (Trip advisor, 2017).  The aesthetic characteristics of the place has evoked strong artistic responses from Australian’s and foreign visitors. The setting of the memorial makes it a prominent feature in Canberra, everywhere you go in Central Canberra it is part of the scenery. The memorial has Mount Ainslie as it backdrops, it is among the only three buildings on the Griffin land axis. Thus, it has a beautiful view from the old and new parliament through the ANZAC parade. The open landscape surrounding the main building has a mix of indigenous and exotic trees planted backed by the beautiful sculptures of the roman goddess of war and the stature of Simpson with his donkey, this feature increase the beauty of the memorial building. The architectural design with its large pylons at the entrance and detailed sculpting at the top of the entrance coupled with the beautiful court yard with the gargoyles curving representing different animals of Australia are a beautiful sight. The war memorial is viewed as a place of great beauty by Australian’s this place provides a space where Australian’s from all backgrounds can freely interact. The ideas, values and history housed by the memorial building are go a long way in impacting the societal values of Australia.

Reflection on War and Reconciliation

 " Avoid glorification of war and boasting of victory" and "perpetuating enmity … for both moral and national reasons and because those who have fought in wars are generally strongest in their desire to prevent war” from this statement by Charles Bean stemmed the guiding principle of the memorial (Australian War Memorial, 2017). This is a strong statement that shows a lot of aspects of the societal values of Australia. The soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the battlefield for peace to prevail in the world. The memorial is a sign of great respect to the lives lost and to the bereaved families, the show of concern and appreciation given to the soldiers promotes patriotism in the country.  Traditions that further cement the feeling of patriotism are the last post ceremony, the story of a soldier who died at war is read to the crowd gathered around the reflection pool. Then ANZAC march day is commemorated at the ANZAC parade. These ceremonies are important in linking the present and past generations and serve as a platform to pass cultural values and practices from one generation to the next. A blog post by Anne Sutherland- Smith shows the importance of the memorial to most Australian families especially to those who have a long history of serving in the military. Her visit to the war memorial was to show her young children Australia’s history. The enthusiasm of her kids shows the impact the visit had on them. It gave a cultural identity to the kids and instilled patriotism (Smith, n.d). 

Conclusion

From its inception, the Australian War Memorial has been a great part of the Australian heritage, the building serves to commemorate the lives of Australian soldiers lost at battle in foreign lands and to house war relics to show the triumphs of the Australian army.

Charles Bean envisioned a place where the family of soldiers who died in battle fields could come to grieve and remember their loved ones. The memorial is an important part of the Australian heritage, the memorial building and the ANZAC parade are the focal points during the celebration of ANZAC march day. The history and relics housed in the building are part of the rich history of Australia and provides a sense of togetherness to the community as they all identify with a common history.

The memorial not only serves as a commemorative space but it is an excellent educational space to young students. Its aesthetics are a great addition to the physical landscape of Canberra and a great tourist attraction site. The tourism and the idea behind the memorial are important in showcasing reconciliation in the world and act as a sign of peace.

The building, landscape and the spirit of the forefathers of the memorial building are important in shaping the cultural values and societal norms of the Australian people. The memorial’s greatest achievement is its ability to link the past, present and future generations.

References

Australian War Memorial. 2017. Origins of the Australian War Memorial. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/about/origins/ [Accessed 14 April 2017].

Australian Heritage Database. 2017. Australian War Memorial and the Memorial Parade. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=105889 [ Accessed 14 April 2017].

Australian War Memorial. 2017. Origins of the Australian War Memorial. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/about/origins/

Smith AS. n.d. Why every Australian should visit the Australian War memorial. [ONLINE] Available at: https://pretraveller.com/australian-war-memorial/ Accessed 14 April 2017]

Anderson, Nola, 2012. Australian War Memorial: Treasures from a Century of Collecting. 1st ed. Murdoch Books.

Connery G, 2016. The Canberra Times. Australian War Memorial Opens Permanent Holocaust display. 30 November 2016.

Department of History UCLA. 2017. Significance of History for the Educated Citizen. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.nchs.ucla.edu/history-standards/preface/significance-of-history-for-the-educated-citizen

Griffith News. 2017. Tourism offers potential passport to peace. [ONLINE] Available at: https://app.secure.griffith.edu.au/news/2017/01/18/tourism-offers-potential-passport-to-peace/ [Accessed 15 April 2017]

Sarah Dunant. 2012. A Point of View: what is history’s role in society? [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19844685. [Accessed 15 April 2017].

Visit Canberra. 2016. The Australian War Memorial named top landmark in Australia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://tourism.act.gov.au/industry-link/2016/05/the-australian-war-memorial-named-top-landmark-in-australia/. [Accessed 14 April 2017]

Wikipedia. 2017. Australia War Memorial-Wikipedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedis.org/wiki/Australian War Memorial. [Accessed 14 April 2017]

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