It will be seven years at the end of December when I finish and it has certainly been the most emotional and meaningful job that I have ever had the privilege to do.
It's been a period of extraordinary renewal for the Australian War Memorial. The thing that makes me most proud is that young veterans, young servicemen and women and their families now regard this place as being as much their spiritual home as it is for earlier generations of veterans.
The challenge and responsibility I put to my magnificent staff when I first arrived is to remain true to the vision our founder, Charles Bean, expressed in 1948: "Here is their spirit in the heart of the land they loved; and here we guard the record which they themselves made".
In a world that he could not possibly have imagined the challenge and responsibility which I think we've been able to achieve is to make this history live, to make it engaging to and engaged by a new generation of Australians and I'd like to think I've been able to play a role in helping to shape the narrative around Australia's service in war and peacekeeping operations.
We've been able to achieve many things here.
At the opening of the Afghanistan exhibition in August 2013 eight months after I arrived, when Mrs Pam Palmer buried her face in my shoulder and wept in front of the cowling from the Black Hawk helicopter that had been used to bring the body of her son Scott and two other dead Australian commandos from the wreck and said thank you for making my son's life mean something and his memory live, that gives you immense satisfaction for what we all do here.
One hundred and twenty-eight thousand Australians paused in pre-dawn darkness here in the dawn service in 2015 for the centenary of the Gallipoli landings, which speaks to the character of the Australian people and the significance of this institution to them. One man had driven with his caravan, his family and his mother, from Townsville - and all over the country to be here in the heart of the land they loved.
The opening of the permanent Holocaust Museum, the installation of the Afghanistan memorials, the sending back of the Menin Gate lions to Ypres, the centenary of the battle of Passchendaele.
The things we've delivered for the centenary of the First World War, the redevelopment of the galleries, 62,000 poppies sweeping the grounds of the memorial visited by 130,000 Australians for the centenary of the end of the First World War, the extension of the Middle East galleries into every space, nook and cranny that we've got.
And perhaps most importantly being able to persuade the government and the opposition to make a generational investment in the memorial of $498 million over nine years to create the spaces so the stories of 100,000 young veterans this nation has created in the last 20 years can be told.
The memorial project for expansion is well advanced and the train has left the station. Wayne Hitches is overseeing a team of almost 30 people now, we're on track in terms of our architects, designs, our engineers, our quantity surveyors.
We will submit and hope to be through the major approvals process on heritage and environment by the end of this year. The primary works will start at the end of October and the major works will start next year in 2020.
I feel that as much as I enjoy and have been immensely rewarded by this role, the people that I've worked with, it is now time for a new person to come and take leadership of this magnificent institution because here at the Australian War Memorial we reveal our soul, we reveal our character, this is where we reveal who we are.
And as I say to young people, if you are looking for values for the world that you want, as distinct from the one you think you're going to get, you don't have to look any further than those 15 inch striking stained glass windows standing sentinel above the tomb of the unknown Australian soldier.
Whilst it is called a war memorial it's not actually about war. These are stories of men and women who devote their lives not to themselves but to us, and their last moments to one another. It's about love and friendship, love for friends and between friends, love of family and love of our country.
- This is an edited extract of Dr Brendan Nelson's announcement that he would step down as director of the Australian War Memorial.