CEW Bean began thinking about commemorating the sacrifice of Australians at war in 1915, at Gallipoli. The idea of a national museum came later when he was visiting Pozières in France, where Australian divisions suffered 23,000 casualties in less than seven weeks. He wanted to set aside a place at home where families and friends could grieve for those buried in places far away, a place that would contribute to the understanding of war. Those feelings still inspire work at the Memorial.
The Australian War Memorial is a symmetrical building set in immaculate gardens. Anzac Hall is a recent addition at the rear. Two medieval lions which were damaged in Belgium during WWI guard the commemorative area. It features a courtyard and the Hall of Memory. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the heart of the Memorial. There is a pool of reflection and a bronze roll of honour with engravings of the names of more than 102,000 men and women whose lives were sacrificed in war. An impressive WW2 bomber plane is a focal point.
The Memorial's collection reflects Australia's contribution to armed conflict all over the world the South African War, the suppression of the Boxer uprising in China, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, Indonesian confrontation, Vietnam, the Gulf War and peacekeeping operations. The collection also commemorates Australia's colonial commitments to wars in New Zealand and the Sudan.
The Memorial Sculpture Garden features the Merchant Seamen Roll of Honour and other works featuring Simpson and his donkey and Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop.
The Discovery Room is for children. It's a hands-on experience where they can look through a periscope rifle in a trench, take the helm of a WWII Corvette, go on patrol in Nui Dat and engage in a spy mission.
There is a shop selling a wide variety of merchandise and the Landing Place and Outpost cafés are good stops for refreshments.