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Sir John Monash Centre opens to rave reviews

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy among crowds looking at exhibits inside the Sir John Monash Centre in France.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy among the early crowds at the Centre.

More than 7,500 people visited the Sir John Monash Centre in France during its first month of operation. The feedback they provided about the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.

Visitors described the interpretive centre, which is at the Australian National Memorial near Villers-Bretonneux, variously as ‘moving’, ‘transformational’ and ‘an absolutely incredible experience’.

Robert, a history teacher from Warrnambool in Victoria, said after his visit that everyone should have an opportunity to experience the Centre.

‘It’s transformational in understanding World War One and the impacts it had on Australians and French alike,’ he said.

‘It’s a museum that’s built the way museums ought to be built in the 21st century.

‘It’s an incredibly emotional experience as well.’

High school student Hannah said it was an opportunity she couldn’t have had anywhere else.

‘I spent today in the new centre and it’s an absolutely incredible experience, very unique and interactive – it made it very real,’ she said.

French visitors were also impressed, with one, Antoine, explaining that visiting the centre provides the French people with ‘a way of honouring all these young Australian soldiers who have fallen on our ground so that it remains French’.

He said he and his party had been amazed by the technology of the Centre and had experienced a lot of emotions during the tour. They also learnt a lot about Australia and its history.

‘We are very pleased to have visited this Centre where we will often come to review or listen.’

‘Thank you, Australia, we don’t forget you!’ he said.

Among the earliest visitors to the Centre were dignitaries including Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, each of whom made a stirring speech during the Centre’s official opening on 24 April 2018.

Also in attendance at the opening event were other dignitaries and descendants of First World War soldiers.

During his opening address, Mr Turnbull encouraged attendees to honour the triumph of the human spirit, courage, solidarity, resilience and above all mateship displayed by Australian troops.

Mr Philippe paid tribute to the Australian soldiers who defended the French land as if it were their own country, and spoke sensitively about the ‘terrible loneliness which these thousands of young Australians must have felt as their young lives were cut short in a foreign country’.

Both men echoed the views of other visitors when they acknowledged the Centre’s importance in telling the story of Australians on the Western Front to new audiences for years to come.

For more information on the Centre, visit the Sir John Monash Centre website. Entry is free though bookings are strongly recommended, especially during peak periods.

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