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Australian War Memorial & Museum - Canberra

Home > Canberra > Day Trips | Family | Memorials | Museums | Places of Interest
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Published July 29th 2019
A TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Award landmark

This world-class Museum, Memorial and Shrine is home to an extensive archive with the purpose of commemorating the sacrifice of Australians who have died in war. The Memorial is not just a place to pay your respects, it is also a place to discover what it means to be Australian.

The Roll of Honour

Located in Australia's capital city, Canberra, the Australian War Memorial opened in 1941, and it was widely regarded as one of the most significant memorials of its type in the world.

Consisting of three parts: the Commemorative Area (Shrine) including the Hall of Memory and the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, the Memorial's Galleries (Museum) and Research Centre (for records) as well as featuring an outdoor Sculpture Garden near the Memorial, the Australian War Memorial and Museum also showcases many things to see, discover and experience.

Witnessing the Changing of the Guard

The War Memorial is Australia's national memorial to the members of armed forces and supports those that have died or participated in wars involving the Commonwealth of Australia, as well as some conflicts that involved Australian personnel colonies prior to Federation.

One of the sculptures in the Sculpture Garden

In the Memorial Building, there are galleries that contain permanent exhibitions that are dedicated to periods of conflict in Australia's history, as well as the ever-changing temporary exhibition gallery.

The entrance to the Museum & the Commemorative Area

Some Highlights include:

Remembrance Driveway:
Located behind the War Memorial is Remembrance Nature Park- Canberra's terminus of the Remembrance Driveway. The driveway is a system of arboreal parks, landmarks and road-side stops between Sydney and Canberra commemorating the 24 World War II and Vietnam War Victoria Cross recipients. There is a small bronze plaque mounted on a large boulder that can be found within the Nature Park. The plaque commemorates Indigenous Australians who have fought for their country.

Anzac Parade:
This short, broad boulevard was named in honour of the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). The Parade stretches from north shore of Lake Burley Griffin to the foot of the Memorial, along the line sight from Parliament House.

Along the sides of the Parade is a row of monuments and sculptures commemorating specific military campaigns or services, including the Vietnam War and Australia's wartime nurses.

At the foot of the Parade, near the Lake, the monumental sculptures are paired in the form of gigantic basket handles, donated by New Zealand to the Memorial. The two monuments are dedicated to Australia and New Zealand respectively, and are inspired by the Maori proverb Mau tena kiwai o te kete, maku tenei, "Each of us at a handle of the basket". This signifies the long tradition of co-operation and general closeness between the two Commonwealth countries.

Commemorative Area:
The Memorial is located at the north end of Anzac Parade and the Commemorative Area is situated in the open centre of the Memorial Building and includes cloisters to each side, the Hall of Memory (under the building's central dome) and the Sculpture Garden to the west.

Hall of Memory and The Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier can be found in the heart of the Commemorative Area. In the tall domed chapel, that is in the form of an octagon, lies the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier inside.

The Colonial Gallery:
Located behind the Temporary Exhibits Gallery.

Last Post Ceremony:
When the Memorial closes each day, there is a Last Post Ceremony where visitors can gather at the entrance of the Commemorative Area and witness the Ceremony which involves the reading of a story of one of the 102,815 people whose names are on the Roll of Honour. The host welcomes visitors to the Ceremony and starts with the National Anthem, brief explanation of the origins of the Memorial, explanation of the Ceremony, then a piper and a bugler descend from the Hall of Memory, with the piper playing "Flowers of the Forest" and wreaths of floral tributes are placed at the base of the Pool of Reflection beside a portrait (if available).

Forecourt and Stone of Remembrance:
The Forecourt is part of the Commemorative Area and is the main place where Anzac Day and Remembrance Day is held in Canberra. The Stone of Remembrance is the focal point for these activities, and the steps from the Memorial towards Anzac Parade lead to the Stone, then to the Parade.

Memorial Building:
The Memorial is a two-storey building with a floor plan that is in the shape of a Byzantine cross. The architecture style features strong styling elements of Art Deco. In 2001, Anzac Hall was added to the north of the original building; in order to preserve the view of the original building from Anzac Parade, Anzac Hall was designed to be recessed in the ground, and hidden behind a wall.

In the Memorial Building, the upper level is dedicated to World War I and World War II. The World War I Gallery features chronological order of the start of Australia's involvement in the war, with the first two sections of the Gallery relating extensively to the Gallipoli campaign.

At the heart of the building is the Hall of Valour, which is a display of 76 of the 100 Victoria Crosses awarded to Australian soldiers; the largest publicly held collection of Victoria Crosses in the world. The Gallery is built to resemble a Victoria Cross with the left side dedicated to the WWI VC recipients, and WWII, Vietnam and Afghanistan on the right.

The lower level showcases Afghanistan: Australia's Story Gallery- which currently is the sole audio-visual Gallery in the Memorial Building, a research area, a gallery for Colonial and Pre-Federation Conflicts including War in Sudan, the Boxer Rebellion, Boar War, and the Conflicts: Post 1945 to Today, Cold War Gallery which features exhibits for the Korean War, conflicts in Malaya and Indonesia and the Vietnam War. There is also a Peacekeeping Gallery and exhibits dedicated to both Gulf Wars, as well as an area for temporary special exhibitions.

ANZAC Hall is a large annexe to the upper level of the Memorial Building and is used for the display of large military hardware.

On the west side there is the complete and particularly historic Lancaster bomber known as G for George, The Wrecks of M-14 and M-21 reconstructed to form a Japanese Ko-hyoteki class midget submarine (both were sunk during the raid on Sydney Harbour in 1942), rare German aircraft, and one of the main guns each from HMAS Sydney and SMS Emden.

East side includes displays of WWI aircraft exhibition including a Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a, PFALZ D.XII and Albatros D.VA, among others. Each of the exhibits also features an audio-visual experience.

Sculpture Garden:
The Garden on the west lawn of the Memorial Building showcases a variety of outdoor monuments, footpath through the garden embedded with bronze plaques commemorating various branches of service, specific units and historical events.

There are also a number of sculptures including a gigantic figure of WWII-era Australian soldier that was originally located in the Hall of Memory before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was placed there. You will also find a gun turret and Bridge from HMAS Brisbane, a gun barrel from the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia and the barrel from the Amiens Gun- a huge railroad gun captured from the Germans during WWI.

Outside the ANZAC Hall at the rear of the Memorial Building, there is Centurion Tank and a Thales Bushmaster.

History Facts for the historian buffs:
Australia's official World War I historian, Charles Bean first conceived a museum memorial to Australian soldiers while observing the 1916 battles in France.

In 1917 the Australian War Records Section was established and it ensured the preservation of records relating to the war being fought at that time. Records and relics were exhibited in Melbourne first, then later in Canberra.

In 1927 there was an architecture competition and it did not produce a winning entry. Two entrants, Sydney architects Emil Sodersten and John Crust, were encouraged to re-present a joint design.

The building was completed in 1941, after the outbreak of World War II and was officially opened following a Remembrance Day Ceremony on 11 November 1941 by then Governor-General Lord Gowrie, who was a former soldier whose honours include the Victoria Cross.

In 1993 the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier was added, to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Other attractions, experiences or points of interest:
There are 30, 60 and 90 minute guided tours available at 10am, 10:15am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm and 2pm daily and include highlights of the entire Memorial Building, or specific galleries.

Audio Tours are also available and feature a 60-minute tour of the First World War, Second World War, and Hall of Valour galleries as well as an optional 30-minute tour of the Conflicts 1945 to Today gallery. It is available for $10 and in multiple languages.

The Memorial is home to two cafes: Poppy's Café which is located in the Memorial grounds and is open daily, 8:30am-4:30pm and The Landing Place, located in ANZAC Hall is open from 10:30am-4:30pm, daily.

Poppy's Cafe which is located outside of the Memorial in the Sculpture Garden

The Research Centre Reading Room is a dedicated facility located within the Memorial Building and provides research assistance and access to an archived collection material. It is open Monday to Friday from 10am-4:30pm and Saturday from 1pm-4:30pm.
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Why? A memorial to Australian armed forces & home to world-class Museum
When: Daily, 10am-5pm
Where: Treloar Cres, Campbell
Cost: Free
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