Year 9 History Excursion
The excursion began with us meeting together at Martin Place. We studied the Cenotaph which featured two figures (a member of the navy and an army soldier) standing on opposite ends of a tomb-like structure with a wreath in the middle. After an explanation about the significance of the Cenotaph from Mr O’Neill, we set to work on finding some of the symbols strewn around Martin Place that relate to Australian history. The most interesting one to me was the Macquarie Bank symbol, which represented the first coin Australia transferred to after using rum to do trade.
Sobering Visit to the ANZAC Memorial
From Martin Place we made our way to the Pool of Reflection in Hyde Park and from there both classes entered the ANZAC Memorial. We passed various sculptures and artworks – as well as a gift shop – before we were asked to place our bags away and enter a room. In this space we witnessed a performance – a re-enactment of nurses’ experiences in war, based on primary source accounts. Following the performance we were given four moral choice questions. The first question was whether we’d join the army if we had to pay our own expenses, to which I said “no”. The second was whether we’d break the censorship laws about writing to people and possibly get sent home, to which I said “yes”. The third question was whether we’d go back for one person in the event of an emergency, to which I said “no” because it could endanger other people’s lives to hold back everyone to save one person. Finally, we were asked if we’d act as a nurse during the Spanish influenza to get back home, to which I said “yes”.
On our guided tour of the ANZAC Memorial we visited the Exhibition Gallery, the Home Soil Memorial and The Hall of Silence. I was intrigued to see the statues and the autograph book of the nurse who took care of the soldiers in the Exhibition Gallery, but I spent most of my time watching a video about a mechanic’s experience of the war, particularly in detecting mines before they exploded, which I found interesting.
Next was the Home Soil Memorial. Seeing all sorts of earth and sand from places around NSW that Australian men and women who had served had come from was a strangely moving experience. I would love to come here when it’s raining and see the water falling into this exposed memorial space.
Finally, we saw the statue of the fallen soldier in the Hall of Silence. This was another very moving experience; the soldier lying there in an almost Christ-like position with a Spartan shield and stars above him. It painted an almost serene picture, but I also thought that it romanticised the idea of war by glorifying the ‘god-like’ soldiers who have fought and died for their country.
After the tour, we did an activity where we wrote a poem for one of the soldiers during WWI. My group wrote a poem about a soldier whose right jaw war had been shot and his right arm had almost been blown off by a bomb.
Yininmadyemi’ – Thou didst let fall sculpture
After leaving the ANZAC Memorial we visited the Yininmadyemi’ – Thou didst let fall sculpture in Hyde Park. Seeing this Aboriginal Memorial right after the glorious sights of the ANZAC Memorial created a very strange feeling. The bullets standing there did not glorify war; they did not provide solace to the people who died. Instead this sculpture stood as a sobering reminder of the futility of conflict and the forgotten sacrifice of thousands of Aboriginal Australians in conflicts across the globe.