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What is the significance of the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial?

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As its name suggests, the Australian War Memorial is a shrine to their nation's more than 100,000 war dead. The Memorial is also a world-class museum that includes war relics, an art collection, a research centre, and is the publisher of the country's official military histories. The Memorial was the brainchild of Charles Bean (18 November 1879 - 30 August 1968), an official war correspondent to the Australian Imperial Force at Gallipoli, France and Belgium and later, lead in researching and publishing the official history of Australia in the Great War. While the concept of a combined memorial, museum and archives was approved by the Federal government in 1918, the basis of the building was not completed until Remembrance Day, 11 November 1941, three years into the Second World War. The original intentions of the Memorial was to commemorate the sacrifice of only those Australians who died in the Great War, but the simplicity of the design allowed for a more universal approach to include all wars and conflicts in which Australians have died. Bean's view was that war should not be glorified, but that those who died fighting for their country should be remembered. The focus of the Memorial is the Hall of Memory and is described as "a quiet place for contemplation of the efforts of ordinary Australians in war and for the remembrance of those who suffered and died." This unique and sacred space prominently features important symbols of remembrance and commemoration including: stained glass windows representing personal, social and fighting qualities of Australian servicemen and women; four pillars representing one of the four basic elements - earth, fire, air and water; one of the largest mosaics in the world that depicts within the dome the souls of the dead rising from the earth towards their spiritual home, represented by a glowing sun with the Southern Cross as well as four large figures on the walls including a soldier, a sailor, an airman and a servicewomen from the Second World War. Located directly beneath the dome is the Unknown Australian Soldier that was repatriated from Adelaide Cemetery near Villers-Bretonneaux in France and was interred in the Hall of Memory on 11 November 1993. The Hall of Memory was opened on 24 May 1959 by His Excellency Field Marshal Sir William Slim Governor-General of Australia. Following conservation and restoration it was reopened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 27 March 2000.

André M. Levesque

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