New AWM sculpture to recognise the sufferings of war and service

Following three years’ work with veterans, their families, ex-service organisations and the departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs, a new sculpture will be placed on the grounds of the Australian War Memorial (AWM) recognising the suffering caused by war and service.

At an event at the AWM on 16 June, then Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the sculpture would provide a permanent place in recognition of those who have experienced and witnessed the ongoing traumas that can result from military service.

‘I have spoken with many veterans’ families and friends, including those who have lost someone to suicide, about how military service has affected them and how this can be better recognised at the Australian War Memorial,’ Mr Chester said.

The project was driven by families of the late Jesse Bird and Peter Cafe, veterans who have experienced mental and physical wounds related to their service, and ex-service organisations, with consultations conducted with the wider community to inform the process.

Members of the stakeholder committee unanimously selected artist Alex Seton’s proposal, Every drop shed in anguish, which will be a field of sculpted Australian pearl marble droplets — up to one metre high — located in the Memorial’s Sculpture Garden.

‘Every droplet has a unique shape, defined by its delicate surface tension, as if about to burst,’ Mr Seton said. ‘Their rounded liquid forms suggest blood, sweat or tears — for every drop ever shed in anguish.’

Attention is rightly given to those who died during war. However, those who were left with both mental and physical suffering from wounds and injuries sustained in service, or exposure to intense trauma or life-threatening conditions, often feel forgotten. By providing overdue recognition and understanding of the impact of service on our veterans and their families — including those left behind — it is hoped that this work of art will assist someway in recovery.

The sculptural installation will provide a place in the AWM’s Sculpture Garden for visitors to grieve, to reflect on service experiences, and to remember the long-term cost of war and service.

‘This sculpture will be an enduring recognition for those affected by military service and serve as a reminder to us all of the impact of service on some of our personnel and their families, but importantly, provide them with hope and healing,’ said Mrs Bird.

‘The sculpture is intended to honour the sufferings of war and service — both seen and unseen,’ said Commissioner Gwen Cherne, Veteran Family Advocate, who attended the event.

The Government will provide $1.2 million to cover the cost of the sculpture’s installation.

The commission will take two years to craft and be a significant work of site-specific, contemporary art and a major addition to the AWM’s collection.

Subject to final approval by the National Capital Authority, the installation is expected to be completed in the second half of 2023. For more information on this project, you can visit the Sufferings of War and Service webpage of the AWM website.

Photo of a photo on an easel showing a series of marble globules on grass

An artist’s impression of the sculpture.