By Lyn Levy
Canberra appears from amongst sleepy farms and highways, an incongruous modern settlement, nestled into the dry rolling hills.
In Canberra this September wintered trees give few hints that spring will restore the city to life. Down by the lake an assembly each a mass of migrants from the far corners of the planet, are carefully housed and tended, helped to settle in to their new home with the caring touch of many hands. They are spring blooms in myriad colours and cleverly contrived patterns. It is the annual Floriade, this year, its 30th, celebrates “Rejuvenation.” This week it is too soon for the tulips, still enfolded in their stalks. In a few days the display will be glorious as they open out into the intricately designed geometric wonder of boldly drawn petals, and passionately coloured. brightly erect stamens. The tulip embodies spring in a cold climate, winter’s belated apology and the perennial promise of new life.
In sobering contrast up on the Eastern hill, compact, blood red poppies scatter and trail through a stone grey edifice. They offering remembrance of sacrifices for this country.
The War Memorial recognises Australians in international conflicts including Peace Keeping missions, this last week recognised for 70 years of service.
Besides the usual museum fare of artefacts, photos, medals, weapons, uniforms there areas a n extensive collection of artworks which bring home the realities of experiences in conflict zones. However, more amazing are the weapons of war including the planes and tanks, restored and easily viewed from the three storeys. Regular sound and light shows simulate dogfights and air raids. A mini submarine from the Japanese incursion into Sydney Harbour 1942 and the original bridge of HMAS Brisbane have been recreated (not recommended for those who suffer sea sickness). Haunting song is piped through at such perfect reproduction that I searched several rooms for the performer.
The museum is engaging and moving without being jingoistic but its function as war memorial is more moving. Over 100,000 Australians have lost their lives in service; each is named on the Wall of Remembrance. Sprays of red poppies make us keenly aware that their loss is not statistical but personal. At the end of each day one of their stories is read followed by a poignant rendition of The Last Post.
From the front of the War Memorial ANZAC Parade sweeps majestically down the slope and then ascends to Parliament House crowning the opposite rise four kilometres away. It is an arresting, awe inspiring place to pause and reflect on where we have been and where we might be heading. As the lawns growing over its roof become inaccessible to the public and children of all ages no longer roll down its grassy slopes, we look forward to the tulips bringing beauty and hope.
Image: Lyn Levy