A flame is widely accepted as a symbol of eternal life. An eternal flame at a war memorial symbolizes a nation's perpetual gratitude towards, and remembrance of, its war dead.
The Eternal Flame at the Australian War Memorial is a sculptural feature of the Pool of Reflection in the commemorative courtyard. It is a perpetual reminder of the service and sacrifice of more than 100,000 Australians who have given their lives in war.
The Australian Gas Association offered to donate an eternal flame to the Memorial as a bicentennial gift. Subsequent to Council approval, the eternal flame was installed in 1988. The eternal flame displaced an existing water cascade within the Pool of Reflection.
Origin Energy continue to provide the donation of gas to the eternal flame under a sponsorship agreement.
The Memorial received assistance in the formulation of a design for the Eternal Flame from the National Capital Development Authority, who engaged the architectural firm Denton, Corker and Marshall to design, document and supervise construction of architectural works associated with the Eternal Flame.
Les Kossatz, from Melbourne, was the sculptor of the original prototype for the flame brazier. It was installed at water level, thereby giving the impression that the flame comes from the water.
Two small plaques giving brief information are sited in the stone paving surrounding the Pool of Reflection near the flame. They read:
THE ETERNAL FLAME
A GIFT TO THE NATION FROM THE AUSTRALIAN
ON THE OCCASION OF AUSTRALIA 'S BICENTENARY
LIT BY HIS EXCELLENCY
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE SIR NINIAN STEPHEN
AK GCMG GCVO KBE
GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF AUSTRALIA