The Napier Waller Art Prize

The Australian War Memorial and the University of Canberra are pleased to invite current and former Australian Defence Force personnel to participate in the 2019 Napier Waller Art Prize.

The Napier Waller Art Prize program aims to promote artistic excellence and the healing potential of art, while raising a broader awareness of the military experience and the impact of service on the individual. 

This prize is the only one offered to former and current Defence personnel at a national level. In its inaugural year, the 2018 Napier Waller Art Prize attracted more than 100 entries. The success and interest in the prize has set a positive course for the Memorial to continue celebrating artistic excellence, providing a platform for people who have served to communicate their experiences.



The Napier Waller Art Prize 2018 exhibition installation, 20 September 2018

Exhibition: Vote for the peoples choice award
Napier Waller Art Prize 2019

“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 been acquiring works that have responded to the Australian military experience, including those by soldier-artists.

Napier Waller

Mervyn Napier Waller was an Australian artist 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. His arm was later amputated, and 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 eX de Medici, former official war artist
  • Display of the winning work at the Memorial, where it will also be acquired into the National Collection.

People’s Choice

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

2018 winner 

Rob Douma was announced as the winner of the inaugural Napier Waller Art Prize in 2018 for his drawing Green on blue: the betrayal of trust

Rob Douma, Green on Blue: The betrayal of trust, drawn 2018, charcoal on snowdon archival paper, acquired 2018, AWM2018.809.1

Rob Douma, Green on Blue: The betrayal of trust, drawn 2018, charcoal on snowdon archival paper, acquired 2018, AWM2018.809.1

Of winning the prize, Douma said:

“Winning the inaugural Napier Waller Prize has been an incredible experience. I feel deeply honoured to have my art displayed in and acquired by the Australian War Memorial and look forward to the mentorship by former [official] war artist Ben Quilty.

“The personal reward has been connecting with the other finalists. I was genuinely surprised and humbled by the open, mutual support regardless of different military backgrounds and experiences. I really enjoyed hearing firsthand the stories and concepts behind each artwork; it was a diverse and powerful exhibition.”

Key dates

Entries open Monday 29 April 2019 and close 17 June 2019. Only online entries will be accepted.

An online exhibition of shortlisted entries will be featured on the Memorial’s website from 19 August 2019.

The winning entry will be announced at a Memorial event on 19 September 2019

The winning entry and those highly commended will be exhibited at the Memorial from 20 September 2019 until 17 November 2019.


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. The prize does not have a set theme, and entrants can respond to the prize however they see fit.

Entrants can download a resources list below that explains how to measure, photograph, and document their work.


  • Dr Brendan Nelson AO, Director of the Australian War Memorial

  • Dr Gerard Vaughan AM, former Director of the National Gallery of Australia

  • Dr Caren Florance, Program Director, TQVisArts, Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra

  • General Angus Campbell AO DSC, Chief of the Australian Defence Force

  • Mr Gary Dawson, Vice President Strategy, Thales Australia

  • Ms Laura Webster, Head of Art, Australian War Memorial

  • Ms eX de Medici, former official war artist

  • Mr Nick Mitzevich, Director of the National Gallery of Australia

  • Mr Paul Flynn, Chief Executive Officer, Hospital Research Foundation

Entry Form

The Entry form has been closed.

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

You can view the terms and conditions webpage or download them below.

“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

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 the experience of war significantly shaped their arts practice, style, and the themes explored in their work. For many, art became a path towards understanding and healing some of the scars left by their experiences. Read about some of these artists here.

We appreciate all submissions to the Napier Waller Art Prize. If you experience difficulties 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.