Monument proposed for diggers' forgotten families at War Memorial

Monument proposed for diggers' forgotten families at War Memorial

Under a slouch hat, in khaki and medals, Major-General Stephen Day expects the attention he receives from schoolchildren on the steps of the Australian War Memorial – it happens all the time.

But he wants the focus to be on diggers' forgotten families.

Major-General Stephen Day at the Australian War Memorial

Major-General Stephen Day at the Australian War MemorialCredit:Graham Tidy

General Day believes the sacrifice families pay is often overlooked, and he wants them acknowledged with their own monument at the War Memorial.


The veteran soldier, writing on the issue, says the government and the public recognise soldiers, sailors and airmen with medals, memorials and commemoration days.

"Our families wear no uniform, they have no medals, there are no memorials to them. There should be," he says.

"The memorial is a special and sacred place, the commemoration here is rightly aimed at those that served, it's an exclusive memorial and I understand that.

"But I think it would be good to open our arms and embrace the fact that the sacrifices are also carried by the immediate family."

And the memorial agrees in principle, as long as it does not foot the bill. A spokesman said the memorial thought the proposal was "a very good idea".

"[But] the memorial does not have funds to construct such a monument," the spokesman said.

"lf anyone or any corporation is interested in funding it, we would be very keen to proceed."

General Day was inspired to speak up when a number of families asked for help. He said while the plight of military personnel had been documented, families often carried a silent burden and tended not to be heard.

"The point is a lot of them are carrying burdens, and just a helping hand, a recognition from the community would be appreciated.

"l feel strongly that, if we had some kind of memorial at this great footprint of recognition and sacrifice here to the families, I think it would trigger in all the people here that there is a cost paid by the families."

General Day floated two design ideas: a monument in the memorial's commemorative gardens or a grander series of statues on Rond Terraces, by the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.

He envisages a woman flanked by two young children, gazing up Anzac Parade towards the memorial. Nearby, another statue of an old veteran casts his gaze across the lake, his eye on Parliament House and the politicians who decide to send Australians to war.

General Day said the statue depicting the woman and children would represent the wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, children, and grandchildren of military personnel.

"But the older veteran is looking to remember that families carry the burden, too," he said.

He concedes the garden option would be less grand, but Iìkely to attract a greater number of visitors due to its location.

"[But] l think putting it right at the bottom of Anzac Parade near the lake would be a nice link between the memorial and Parliament."

General Day expects the proposal will cause heated debate in the community, with many in disagreement.

"People wouldn't perhaps disagree that there should be some recognition. But l expect that [the idea of] something public and something in the AWM's special grounds would meet with some dissensìon from some areas.

"I think putting this into the public air will generate debate and conversation, which will ultimately lead to something sensible and appropriate."

He hoped that conversation would not only lead to a commemoration but also generate understanding about the sacrifice of families.

"This isn't something I'll let go of," he said.

"It doesn't matter how long it takes: as long as I have breath in me, I'm determined to get this done."

Most Viewed in National