Australian National Veterans Arts Museum honoured with community award

Australian National Veterans Arts Museum honoured with community award
Sean Car

A world-first Veteran’s Public Arts Trail that weaves together history and the creativity of war veterans, extending from the CBD to Southbank, has been recognised with a prestigious award.

Designed by the Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM), the trail is a four-kilometre path from Little Collins St to the Victoria Barracks in Southbank and features 20 public artworks and buildings created by about 20 different members of the war veteran community.

In recognition of their outstanding initiative, which was made possible with the collaboration of Open House Melbourne, ANVAM was honoured with a commendation as part of the Public Record Office Victoria’s Community History Awards.

ANVAM chairman and director Mark Johnston who led the trail, which concludes at the former Repatriation Clinic at 310 St Kilda Rd, said it served as a power narrative in showcasing the individual experiences and perspectives of veterans.

“As a museum, it’s important to us to be working with a modern-day veteran community and to showcase the stories of contemporary veterans to the broader community and to help facilitate contemporary veterans to tell their story through the arts,” Mr Johnston said.

“Part of that is looking to our history and our heritage within the veteran community, what veterans have done not on the battlefield but in the arts, which has happened in and around the battlefield.”


Trench art, for example, is a form of art that that emerged out of WWI and maybe earlier, but certainly WWI which is a way veterans kept themselves busy and occupied.


The public arts trail includes 3D sculptures and 2D murals as well as buildings and other landmarks designed or sponsored by veterans as artists, architects, and arts patrons.

Veterans include the world’s oldest practicing veteran artist, Erwin Fabian, of North Melbourne who lived to 104 years old; Nora Heysen, who was the first woman to win the Archibald and is one of 14 veterans to have collectively won more than a third of all Archibalds, and Sir Robert Risson, who was credited with saving Melbourne’s tram network.

There’s also a sculpture on St Kilda Rd of Australia surgeon Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop, created by Peter Corlette, whose father served in WWII.

The statue at Kings Domain is part of the City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection, and honours Dunlop’s leadership while being held prisoner by the Japanese during WWI.

“It is just one of many such life-size sculptures around Melbourne,” Mr Johnston said.

“I started on the journey to look at the local examples of that and there was just such a plethora of that around Melbourne and Southbank and Melbourne, CBD and Southbank, that it became an obvious thing to want to showcase that to the public.”

The commendation was part of the Local History Project Award category, which Mr Johnston said was a “source of pride” as he believed the trail was “the only one of its type in the world”.

ANVAM hopes to recruit volunteers who would like to host the trail, and welcomes expressions of interest.

Tours of the trail were held last year and will be staged again as part of Festival of Veterans Art 2024 in March and the Open House Melbourne weekend in July.

ANVAM has applied for grant funding to support the development of its capability to regularly host the unique trail through Melbourne and Southbank. •


Caption: The Australian National Veterans Arts Museum hosts a tour of the Veteran’s Public Arts Trail.

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