The Napier Waller Art Prize

The Australian War Memorial and the University of Canberra invite current and former Australian Defence Force personnel to participate in the inaugural Napier Waller Art Prize.

The aim of the prize is to raise a broader awareness of the military experience and the impact of service on the individual. It is the first time that an art prize of this nature has been open to former and current Defence personnel at a national level.

Waller painting

Napier Waller (photographer John Cyril “Jack” Cato), c.1933–1934, Melbourne. Image courtesy of Susan Kellett 

“Mounting evidence implies that arts and health can have an active, significant role across the military continuum and an individual’s lifespan as well as for families.”
Judy Rollins, Arts, Health and Well-Being across the Military Continuum: White Paper and Framing a National Plan for Action, Americans for the Arts, Washington DC, 2013

Art at the Australian War Memorial

There are approximately 40,000 works of art in the Memorial’s collection. Since the First World War the Memorial has acquired works that have responded to the Australian military experience, including those by soldier artists.

Napier Waller

Mervyn Napier Waller was an Australian artist and serviceman who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1915. In May 1917 he was wounded in the right arm while serving with the 11th Field Artillery Brigade during the fighting at Bullecourt, and it was later amputated. During his convalescence he learned to write and draw with his left hand, saying “an artist draws with his head, not his hands”. In 1937, Waller was chosen to create the decorative elements in the Australian War Memorial’s Hall of Memory.

Winner's Prize

  • $10,000 cash prize sponsored by Thales Australia
  • A two-week research residency in the Art Section of the Memorial
  • A mentoring day with Ben Quilty, former official war artist
  • The winning work will go on display at the the Australian War Memorial and will be acquired for the Memorial's art collection.

People’s Choice

The Napier Waller Art Prize will be complemented with a $5,000 People’s Choice Award.

Key dates

Entries open: Monday 11 June 2018
Entries close: Wednesday 11 July 2018 – only online entries will be accepted.

All artworks should be complete at the time of submitting the entry. Artworks should be ready for transportation to the Memorial by 1 August if applicants are successfully chosen as a Highly Commended entry.

An online exhibition of shortlisted entries will be featured on the Memorial’s website from Thursday 30 August 2018.

The winning entry will be announced on Thursday 20 September 2018.


The Memorial invites entries in any visual art medium, including but not limited to: painting, photography, printmaking, drawing, sculpture, digital, decorative and installation. The work must not exceed 2 x 2 x 2 metres, and must have been completed in the 24 months prior to submission.

For any enquiries about the Napier Waller Art Prize please email:

Entrants can download a resources list that explains how to measure, photograph and document their work. You can also view the terms and conditions or download them below. 


  • The Director of the Australian War Memorial Dr Brendan Nelson AO
  • The Chairman of the Australian War Memorial Mr Kerry Stokes AC and Ms Christine Simpson Stokes
  • Mr Ben Quilty, former official war artist
  • Dr Gerard Vaughan AM
  • Distinguished Professor Jen Webb, Director of the Centre for Creative and Cultural Practice Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra
  • General Angus Campbell, Chief of the Defence Force
  • Gary Dawson, Vice President Strategy Thales Australia
  • Laura Webster, Head of Art Australian War Memorial

Profiles of artists who served: highlighted for the Napier Waller Art Prize

A number of prominent Australian artists have served in the military. For some of these artists the experience of war significantly shaped their arts practice, style and the themes explored in their work. For many, art became a path to understanding and healing some of the scars left by their experience. Read about some of these artists.

“The positive neurophysiological changes occurring during the making or viewing of the creative arts is now a well-researched field of endeavor. This research is now providing scientific, empirically based evidence as to the benefits of the arts.”
Ian Drayton, The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia Final Report,2017

We appreciate all submissions to the Napier Waller Art Prize. If difficulties arise in the course of your participation, help is available at Defence Health, Beyond Blue, or Lifeline.

Relevant service providers include:

A bibliography of international research in the field of creative arts and health can be found here:

The Napier Waller Art Prize is presented in partnership by The Road Home, the University of Canberra and Thales Australia.

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