Mary Cubillo was just 10 years old when her family was evacuated from Darwin during the Second World War. The third of nine children, Mary was one of the Larrakia people, the traditional owners of the land in Darwin and Point Cox. She was given an evacuation knapsack and her mother was allowed to pack one suitcase for herself and her large family.
Mary’s father, John, and her uncles stayed behind. She later learned that her father, who worked on the wharves, was killed when 188 Japanese planes attacked Darwin Harbour on 19 February 1942. His body was never found.
Mary’s story is told as part of a large outreach program run by the Education team at the Australian War Memorial which features more than 90 Memorial Boxes that are filled with objects and artefacts such as the knapsack given to Mary.
Memorial Boxes are used by schools throughout Australia to invigorate classroom lessons, inspire historical investigation, and add meaning to commemorative activities. They can be adapted for use as a therapeutic tool in aged-care facilities or as an interactive display in a community museum.
Education officer Helen Casey said the Memorial Boxes were designed to support the Memorial’s mission to help Australians remember, interpret, and understand the Australian experience of war.
“They contain a variety of hands-on objects and case studies which can be linked to our online resources,” she said. “Just under half of our users are secondary schools, and the other half are primary schools, but an important group are also our community users, such as libraries, aged-care facilities and youth groups.”