Unless you are looking for it, there’s every chance you could miss the National Australia Remembers Freedom Wall. But then, you may well ask, what is it?
Head deep into the Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens and then keep climbing to the top of the hill, and you will see a long white wall with a flag flying above. It announces the National Australia Remembers Freedom Wall.
Behind it is a little bridge and a winding path that leads through a wide, open corridor to a circular walled area under a dome.
All up 16,000 brass plaques have been placed on the walls by family, friends, and community members in memory of those who fought for their country.
They also recognise the workers on the land and organisations such as the Red Cross that contributed to the war effort.
As a bit of background – in 1995, the nation commemorated 50 years since the end of World War II with a national year called Australia Remembers, which was recognised in various ways in communities around the country.
The National Freedom Wall is part of that, as the name suggests (although it wasn’t officially opened until Armistice Day, November11, 1996) but it is not a war memorial as such.
An introductory plaque states: “It has been built not only to honour those servicemen and women who gave their lives in all theatres of war but also to honour all who were involved, including the millions of civilians who played their part in maintaining Australia’s freedom. On this wall are inscriptions to commemorate those personal sacrifices.
“This wall is a symbol of freedom. Australians should not forget the price that was paid to achieve this freedom.”
A plaque interprets the whole.
The approach is by a gang plank bridge over a ravine. This is a reminder of the forces which had to travel over water from their homeland, an island continent, to serve in the name of freedom.
Two long walls, forming the corridor, come together at a circular central wall, all surrounded by bush to provide a place of peace and tranquility to reflect.
The enclosing perimeter gardens represent:
The land – a field of low grasses broken by symbolic trenches and battle landscapes.
The sea – waving lines of blue and white grasses that move in the breezes at the top of the hill.
The divide – a sea or river of grass trees and she-oaks bounded by rocks and boulders to represent the separation between Australia and distant lands.
The little brass plaques all have a story to tell and, like the Menin Gate in Ypres, brings home the number of Australian lives lost on distant soil.
Although well concealed and little known more than a decade after its opening, it is an interesting and contemplative place to visit.
If the walk up the hill from the gardens is too steep, simply drive through the garden gates and take the ring road to the wall’s entrance. It is usually easy to park as it is off the beaten track.