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THE AUSTRALIAN EX-PRISONERS OF WAR MEMORIAL
The journey begins on a long pathway designed to create a strong visual perspective that emphasises the great distances Australians traveled to war.
The paving stones forming the pathway are shaped like railway sleepers in recognition of the iconic place of railway journeys in the history of Australian prisoners of war.
A roll of names of every Australian prisoner of war is etched into a black granite wall running parallel to the pathway. The roll gives no rank, number or enlistment detail, in recognition that sacrifice, suffering, and deprivation aknowledge no person's status. These man and women are equals.
In a break in the wall a row of stone obelisks stand sentinel in a shallow pool of water. Each bears the names of countries where Australians were held as prisoners of war. The obelisks are out of reach across the water, symbolising that all the prison camps were overseas - far from home and the comfort of family and friends. The size of the obelisks and their position in the water create a powerful image and offer a place for reverence and reflection. The obelisks form a silent line of guardians watching over these prisoners of war for ever. The fallen stone honours all those men and women who died as prisoners of war.
The roll of names on the granite wall continues towards a large stone at the end of the pathway. The stone rests on a small granite wall and bears the timeless injunction, 'Lest we Forget'. This is the end of the journey - an intimate space for contemplation.
Water springs from beneath the 'Lest we Forget' stone, then flows down the wall into the narrow watercourse in the front of the first group of names and into the relective pool, then continues past the second group of names. Finally, it disappears under the pathway, returning to its source under the 'Lest we Forget' stone to start the journey again. Water symbolises the essential nature of man, sacrifice, suffering, spirituality, healing, cleansing, birth and re-birth. In this memorial it forms a continuous cycle, binding all Australian prisoners of war together for all time.
The memorial is created from natural materials and is designed to be in harmony with the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, and to create a sense of timelessness, dignity and respect.
Peter Blizzard (Sculptor)
In 1996 I was invited to a meeting in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, by Les Kennedy OAM, to discuss the possibility of designing a new more appropriate memorial to replace a small stone plaque and flagpole which was the then existing local Prisoners of War memorial.
After doing some research in my studio, I discovered the national monument for ex-prisoners of war in Australia was the reconstructed Changi Chapel at the Duntroon Military Academy in Canberra. Whilst this is a very moving and sacred monument, it is only really relevant to those ex-prisoners who were held in Changi.
It was then that I came up with the idea that we should build an appropriate national memorial for all Australian ex-prisoners of war.
I wrote a brief for myself as follows:
The design was submitted to the Ballarat ex-Prisoners of War committee in 1997, and to the Australia ex-Prisoners of War Association later the same year.
This project was the most emotional and rewarding spiritually that I have been involved with. It was a labour of love, and of thanks to all Australian ex-prisoners of war.
It stands now as a testiment to the bravery of these special Australians.
The construction of this memorial was started in January 2003.
I was involved in all aspects of the construction process - briefing meetings with contractors and sub-contractors; overseeing of all details throughout construction; the physical 'hands-on' shaping of all stone obelisks with hammers, chisels and grinders for six months in the quarries (assisted by my son Paul); the supervision of the erection of all obelisks; and the laying of all the paving stones on site.
At the same time, I prepared full size drawings for all of the lettering on the walls, obelisks, entrance and exits; briefed stonemasons; and checked stencils before the sand blasting onto the granite slabs and obelisks.
This was the longest project I have worked on, and the most rewarding.
My special thanks to all staff at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, all contractors and sub contractors, the hard-working committees and sub-committees and, especially, to all the Australian ex-Prisoners of War and their families.
A special thanks also to my wife Liz and my son Paul for the hundreds of hours they worked on this project.
The construction of the memorial was completed, on schedule, in December 2003.
This memorial is dedicated to all Australians who became prisoners of war while fighting the enemy. The names of all known Australian servicemen and women who were captured by the enemy are listed. More than 8600 Australians died in captivity. Their deaths were mainly the result of brutality, starvation, and disease. Almost 400 Australians who died in captivity have no known grave. This memorial honours them. The names of the countries on the columns are those where Australians were held captive at the time. These Australians were made prisoners during the Boer War, World War 1, World War 2, and the Korean War. This memorial was dedicated to the memory of all Australian ex Prisoners of war by General Peter Cosgrove AC MC, Chief of the Defence Force, on the 6th of February 2004.
Website: Magita Conrad. Melbourne. 2006 email