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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 18514

Transcript of joint doorstop interview, Canberra

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/04/2012

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 18514

PM: I am very pleased to be here at the War Memorial this morning. I'm joined by Warren Snowdon, our Minister for Veterans' Affairs, by Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, Chairman of the Council of the Australian War Memorial, Ms Nola Anderson, the Acting Director of the Australian War Memorial, Mr Shane Carmody, Acting Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Brigadier Bill Rolfe representing the Chair of the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board and of course I'm also joined by the local Member Andrew Leigh.

Ninety-seven years ago, the men of the 1st AIF were diverted from their training in Egypt to go to an unknown place called Gallipoli. Gallipoli is now a site of pilgrimage for every Australian. Most go there in spirit. Others who can travel go there in person to be present at the place and at the time when the story of courage and character which is Gallipoli began.

It's a journey I've wanted to make all of my life and I'm very honoured and grateful that I will be in Gallipoli for this Anzac Day. I will be there as Prime Minister representing the nation, but I will also be there as a grateful citizen, a citizen grateful for all of the things that have been achieved by the men and women who fought for this country across the ages.

We go to Gallipoli as Australians to see and to understand but mostly we go to bear witness now that the original Anzacs are all gone. So it is with this place that we stand in today, the Australian War Memorial. This building was meant to honour one conflict, the ‘war to end all wars'. But by the time it was finished we were enmeshed in another great war and yet more followed across the decades including this very day the fighting in Afghanistan.

But the First World War is the heart of this memorial and because all of the Anzacs are now gone, it is a story that needs to be told with renewed clarity and conviction.

Much has been contributed to the upgrading and expansion of this building over the past two decades, investments that do credit to all those who were involved in making them. But one great task remains: the refurbishment of the First World War galleries which have changed little over many years.

So I'm very proud today to be able to announce that the Government will provide $27 million to ensure this project will be undertaken and completed in time for the Centenary of Anzac.

These galleries themselves are a rich part of our tradition of memory, especially the dioramas we've just been looking at which so vividly and so faithfully capture the horror the Anzacs faced. So this will be a sensitive refurbishment, preserving all that is best loved of these galleries while bringing to bear the latest insights of museum design and multimedia technology. And it will allow more of the Memorial's very extensive collection to actually be on display, so you will be able to see what now is unfortunately hidden because there simply isn't the space or technology to display it.

We want to present these stories and experiences of our involvement in the First World War to a modern audience and particularly to the tens of thousands of school children who visit this place.

At the inauguration of this Memorial on Anzac Day 1929 the Governor-General Lord Stonehaven said that:

“No building can ever hold the same place in the hearts of Australians as the War Memorial will hold, even though Canberra is enriched and will be enriched with many noble and beautiful buildings.”

Eight decades have passed and places like the National Library and the new Parliament House have been built, but Lord Stonehaven's assessment surely remains correct. If we ever needed to explain or understand our nation and its character in a single place, this is it. This is the place.

No Australian needs to be told to respect it, Australians just do. And so we will ensure as the Centenary of Anzac approaches, that the building is given the care and resourcing it needs to repay that respect.

In the same way, we will deliver a program of commemoration that gives all Australians the opportunity to commemorate the Centenary of Anzac in the most appropriate way possible.

The work of the Centenary Advisory Board led by Angus Houston and building on the work of the Hawke Fraser Commission is moving swiftly ahead. I will be making further announcements in the coming weeks about the Government's support for the Centenary program but the work of commemoration begins here in this very sacred place today.

I'll now ask Minister Snowdon to make a few comments.

MINISTER SNOWDON: Thank you Prime Minister. You have emphasised the importance of the War Memorial on Australia's cultural landscape. I think we all need to appreciate that importance and know that over 850,000 Australians visit the War Memorial each year. 125,000 are schoolchildren. So it's a very central part of our cultural heritage and as such the investments been made by the Government to refurbish the World War One galleries are crucial to us providing appropriate commemorations around the Centenary of Anzac.

The Prime Minister has indicated she'll be going to Gallipoli for this Anzac Day. I'll be at Villers-Bretonneux, where on the 24th and 25th of April 1918 there was this tremendous battle. So it's important that we understand that when we talk about the First World War we appreciate the sacrifices made across the whole of the battlefront. To know that over 400,000 Australians served during the First World War, 60,000 of them died. And on the Western Front in France and Belgium 295,000 served, 46,000 died. The sacrifice is extreme and touched so many Australian families including my own.

So when we work towards the commemorations of Anzac, the Centenary around the start, the commencement of the First World War in 1914 and then beyond until Armistice Day in 1918, we will be relying very, very heavily on the work of the Anzac Advisory Board being led so ably by Angus Houston.

I'm looking forward to working with them. As the Prime Minister has said further announcements will be made in coming days around other things we are doing, but it is very important for all Australians to understand that we are intent on providing the most appropriate way, the best we can do to commemorate Australia's sacrifice during those great battles of the First World War. But understand also we're talking about a centenary of service up until the present day and understand we're also thinking about while we do that our men and women who are serving in Afghanistan.

REAR ADMIRAL KEN DOOLAN: Prime Minister, the announcement that you have made this morning about the funding of the refurbishment of the First World War galleries will be very welcome news to the Council of the Australian War Memorial, but also of course to the Director and our dedicated and expert staff here, but more particularly I guess to the broader sweep of Australians including those who spend their time here as volunteers showing our visitors around this iconic building, talking to the schoolchildren, and also those very important people who sign on as Friends of the War Memorial to help support this particular institution which has a unique place for many Australians who visit here from right across this vast land of ours.

And as the Minister has already said, included in that are the schoolchildren from every state and territory. And so the story continues to be told to those school children by and through this Memorial because it is unique. It is two things, it is both a memorial and of course it's a museum. Those who go and visit, as did briefly this morning, the memorial part and see the poppies placed alongside the names and watch people as they go and find the names of those who paid the supreme sacrifice in yesteryear then come down to this area here, and to the great part of the Memorial and are told the story and learn about what happened at places like Gallipoli, at places like Pozieres.

And of course it not only includes the First World War, but it includes those wars that have occurred since that time. So we thank you and the Government for the investment that you have placed in the refurbishment of these galleries and we look forward to seeing those opened in time for the Centenary of Anzac.

Lest we forget.

PM: So in line with the protocols of the War Memorial we'll only take questions relating to this announcement. Are there any questions? Yes.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you give an indication of what the money will be spent on (inaudible).

PM: Sure, look I think the best person to do that is probably Nola so we'll call on her expertise to give you the full run down.

NOLA ANDERSON: Thank you Prime Minister and it will be a lot of work but a huge pleasure to undertake that work. There will be changes that you won't see because we will be keeping the dioramas which Australians know and love but there will be some major changes in the way that we arrange those dioramas. For example, we will be putting them into chronological order so that visitors can actually walk through the history of the First World War and see the dioramas, the stories that they tell, in the correct story line.

We will also be using a lot more new technology so that our visitors who are very technologically savvy these days will be able to use Wi-Fi, iPads, iPhones to interrogate more of the collection that we have there.

We will also be able to do some work on the heritage nature of the galleries, some of those parts of the galleries haven't been changed since the 1940s and we'll be able to make sure that they will be treated in the correct way that a heritage building should be.

PM: Thank you. Are there other questions? No?

Thank you very much.

Transcript 18514