The Australian War Memorial is a mighty stone edifice which stands on the upper slope of the hill at the outer edge of the “civilisation” or town side of Canberra. It looks down a broad avenue, lined with monuments, across the lake to the new Parliament building.
There is a suggestion of the Parisian Champs de Mars in the avenue and a hint of Les Invalides in the memorial itself but it has a different and uniquely Australian translation. A statue of Australia’s own World War Two hero Weary Dunlop stands, not as uniformed young digger, nor as a decorated ex-serviceman, but as an old man in crumpled suit with a red cloth poppy tucked into his stone buttonhole.
Inside, the Memorial the stories of Australia’s Wars, from the clash with the Boers in South Africa to the Vietnam involvement, are told in a variety of ways that make the hardship, the horror and the tragedy that is common to them all, impossible to forget.
There are galleries of dioramas, storyboards, photographs, weapons, uniforms and memorabilia. The Discovery Zone offers a Hands-on, see it touch it smell it, play on it experience. In a great sensurround hangar you are literally immersed in battle – stand on a platform and watch an air raid on a city below, or sit on the ground and watch a dog-fight in the air above.
The Hall of Valour honours the heroes of war. The Walk of Remembrance, lined on both sides with endless ranks of names, honours those who sacrificed their lives.
The Australian War Memorial is more than a war museum, it’s admonishment to peace.