A must-visit in Canberra, the Australian War Memorial is Australia’s national memorial to the members of its armed forces and supporting organisations who have died or participated in wars involving Australia.
It’s a sobering visit that requires attention and time, and I would advise leaving aside the majority of a day to adequately explore its shrine, museum and garden.
The Memorial’s purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war and to help visitors interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society.
Covered in detail are Colonial Conflicts, the First World War, the Second World War and
Conflicts 1945 to today, with halls dedicated to the Anzacs, aircraft and valour (distinguished service people). The stories are told through dioramas, artefacts, photographs and videos. It’s a confronting, emotional experience to walk through the halls and learn about the sacrifices made for future generations to live in peace.
The Hall of Memory, set above the Pool of Reflection, is the heart of the Australian War Memorial. The walls surrounding the pool is the Cloisters, where the walls have been created as a Roll of Honour, inscribed with the names of 102,000 people who have given their lives in the service of this country. Inside hall lies the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, a place to stand still and contemplate all that’s past in the hopes of future peace.
For a place of quiet contemplation, I suggest visiting The Memorial Sculpture Garden, located to the west of the main building.
I would suggest timing your visit to co-incide with the closing of the Memorial to witness the beautiful farewell ceremony that is carried out daily. At the end of each day, at 4:55pm AEST, the Memorial farewells visitors with its moving Last Post Ceremony.
The ceremony begins with the singing of the Australian National Anthem, followed by the poignant strains of a lament, played by a piper. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names etched on the Roll of Honour is told. The Ode is then recited, and the ceremony ends with the sounding of the Last Post. It is an incredibly moving experience.
Visiting the Australian War Memorial with Kids
The Memorial caters to children, aiming to educate and engage them in history through story time, museum theatre shows, family tours, holiday workshops and drop in craft. A Discovery Zone has been set up as an educational space for visiting school groups, featuring five environments inspired by Australia’s military history: a trench on the Western Front in France from the First World War, the Australian home front during the Second World War,
an Iroquois helicopter hovering in a field in Vietnam, an Oberon Class submarine, searching for enemy targets and a peacekeeping mission in a war-ravaged community.
Children can climb, jump, crawl, touch and explore in all areas of the Discovery Zone. It’s open to the public from 12.30pm to 1.30pm on weekdays and all day during weekends, public holidays and ACT school holidays.
The Australian War Memorial
Treloar Cres, Campbell
Hours: Daily 10am-5pm daily. Closed Christmas Day.
Additional image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.