Anzac Square, in Brisbane, is Queensland’s pre-eminent war memorial, commemorating the contribution of Australian armed forces and particularly, the service of Queensland’s men and women, in overseas conflicts since the Boer War. In recognition of the importance of this unique and much loved memorial, $13.6 million is being invested in a staged project to protect, restore and make respectful enhancements.
Since the commencement of the project, the Shrine of Memories and Memorial Crypt have been closed. In order to avoid damage and enable works to be undertaken, some plaques were removed and where required, restored by specialist craftsmen.
Stage 1 of the project was completed in mid-2014 and involved stripping out the former RSL (Queensland Branch) Headquarters and thoroughly investigating the water penetration issues and the structural condition of the substructure and walls.
Stage 2 of the project was completed in April 2015, in time for the centenary of the landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 2015, where Anzac Square saw an unpreceded attendance of 40,000 people. During this stage, critical works were undertaken to address water infiltration into the undercroft areas, which was damaging
The restored cenotaph located in ANZAC Square. During renovations, the Eternal Flame was relocated to a temporary home on Ann Street. Brisbane, 2014
Image Source: Brisbane City Council
the rooms and galleries below and threatening the structural integrity of the memorial. A new concrete top slab, overlaid with layers of waterproofing membrane addressed this issue.
This stage also addressed issues with the reliability of the Eternal Flame by installing a new electronic ignition system inside the Eternal Flame urn. Repairs to the heritage elements including stonework and replacement tiling and paving also occurred. During this time, the Shrine of Remembrance was not accessible and acknowledging its importance, the Eternal Flame was temporarily relocated to the Anzac Square Parkland, with the Australian Defence Force’s Brisbane-based units providing ceremonial support.
Stage 3 works are nearing completion and involve the refurbishment and respectful enhancement of heritage undercroft spaces, including the Shrine of Memories and Memorial Crypt. The former RSL (Queensland Branch) headquarters is proposed to be transformed into an Exhibition Gallery and will house all post-Second World War plaques. During these works a 19th-century heritage wall was uncovered. The wall effectively retains Ann Street from the undercroft area and has been restored to further showcase the heritage significance of the site.
A key component of Stage 3 has been the curation of the plaques on the Ann Street frontage and from the Memorial Crypt. The project partners recognised the importance of all memorials and plaques at Anzac Square.
Plaque curation will provide an opportunity for all visitors to Anzac Square to gain a richer understanding of the sacrifices they represent and the history behind each one.
The plaques will be placed in a clear and organised manner, within dedicated rooms that correspond to the following periods of time:
- First World War (First World War Memorial Crypt)
- World War (Second World War Memorial Gallery)
- Post-Second World War (proposed) Post-Second World War Memorial & Exhibition Gallery
The restoration of a WWI plaque.
Image Source: RSL News
To inform these changes an independent historian was engaged to research the history of Anzac Square and the stories behind the plaques housed in the memorial spaces. Following this research the project partners, in consultation with former senior Navy, Army, and Air Force personnel, categorised all plaques.
This categorisation was in line with the approach used by the Australian War Memorial. It is hoped these changes will create a better sense of order and provide a richer narrative for future generations to engage with the plaques and the sacrifices they represent.
Stage 3 will also include new service infrastructure (power, data, communications, audio-visual, security and mechanical), installing new toilets and staff facilities and improving connectivity to both parts of the undercroft via the pedestrian tunnel.
Further activation of the new spaces and narrative sharing around the plaques and proposed Post-Second World War Memorial and Exhibition Gallery will be considered as part of future stages of the project. The undercroft will provide a balance between the need for a place for the public to solemnly pay their respects, and creating a space that is engaging and educational for the many visitors to Anzac Square.
RSL (Queensland Branch) State President Stewart Cameron has voiced his support of the restoration works, acknowledging the importance of not only maintaining the structural integrity of the memorial, but ensuring the living monument continues to honour those who have fallen and those who have or continue to serve.
“The Shrine of Remembrance and ANZAC Square in Brisbane are our state’s living memorial to those who have served our nation. It is not only the home of our most significant memorial services, but is the spiritual home to our brothers and sisters in arms,” said Stewart. “It is fitting in this year, as we continue to remember the centenary of the
First World War, and also look to celebrate the RSL’s own centenary, that the works be done to preserve the Shrine for the future.”
For more information about the project and to view a time lapse video of Stage 2 works, visit www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/anzacsquarerestoration. Enquires can be addressed directly to the project team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 1800 884 681.
Outside of business hours you can contact Council’s 24-hour call centre on (07) 3403 8888.
To find out more about the Queensland Anzac Centenary legacy projects, grants program and events visit anzac100.initiatives.qld.gov.au.