What makes a ‘National’ War Memorial? The Case of the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial

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Lachlan Grant


The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial was unveiled in Ballarat to great fanfare in February 2004. Struggling to overcome serious setbacks in order to raise the necessary funds to construct the $2 million memorial over more than a period of four years, the memorial, listing the names of all Australian prisoners of war from all conflicts was judged by the Federal Government to be nothing but a ‘local’ memorial rather than a ‘national’ memorial. The article investigates whether this issue is at all associated with the ambiguity and difficulty of incorporating prisoners of war into the Anzac legend or whether there were other factors at hand deciding the official ‘national’ status of the first war memorial to list the names of all Australian prisoners of war. The importance of this issue reveals how government bureaucracy and party politics can influence the future and potential public significance of a war memorial.

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Author Biography

Lachlan Grant, Monash University

Lachlan Grant is a postgraduate within the School of Historical Studies at Monash University. His recently completed Masters thesis documented the public commemoration and memorialisation of Australian prisoners of war and closely examined the construction and dedication of the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial. He is currently researching the cultural significance of the experiences of Australian servicemen and women within the Asia-Pacific region during the Second World War.