ANZAC Day is a significant and poignant day in our nation’s calendar, and this year we couldn’t think of a more fitting place to commemorate it than the National ANZAC Centre in Albany.
We were spending the long weekend in the picturesque town of Denmark and decided to take the half hour drive down the coast to visit this fairly new but iconic centre. The centre is perched on a hill above King George Sound, where more than 41,000 Australians and New Zealanders left Albany in convoys, bound for the First World War.
It was a surreal experience, looking out over the Sound and trying to imagine what it would’ve been like seeing dozens of ships, carrying thousands of people and horses as they sailed towards the Middle East. To aid the imagination, there are several photos and video footage of the convoys leaving the Sound, and it was quite an impressive site.
The best thing about the ANZAC Centre is that it’s very interactive. Each person is given a card at the beginning of their tour, so that they can follow that person’s journey through the war. It allows you to see the war from one person’s perspective, and I found this enabled me to really connect with their story, and get a sense of what they were thinking and feeling.
There are also dozens of interactive displays, which allow you to access audio commentary relating to the displays. It’s quite amazing hearing the words of those involved in the war, and many of the commentaries are taken from letters that servicemen and women sent home to their families.
The displays also contain unique artefacts and rare images and film, which really bring the stories to life. The displays are in a chronological order, so you can follow them through history.
For me, the most touching part of the Centre was the Pool of Reflections, which contains the names of the 41,265 servicemen and women who left Albany on the first and second convoys. It’s a stark reminder of the sheer number of people who went off to fight this war, each one with a name, story, life and family.
The final displays at the Centre allow you to discover the fate of the person whose story you’ve been following. This was perhaps the most surprising part for me – discovering how many people survived the fighting, but died within a few years of returning home due to illness, psychological trauma, accidents and suicide. It’s a grim reminder of the toll that war takes.
Overall, we thought the National ANZAC Centre was a spectacular tribute to those who gave their lives for our countries. In my opinion, it’s an absolute must-see for anyone visiting Albany. We took the kids, aged 11 and 13, and I feel it was a really important story for them to hear, although to be honest I probably wouldn’t take really young children there.
Oh, and on the way out, do yourself a favour and stop at the Garrison café – great coffee, stunning décor and spectacular cakes!
Notes: Albany is about a 5 hour drive south of Perth. For more info, see: www.nationalanzaccentre.com.au