Published: Wed 5 Oct 2016

A new permanent display at the Australian War Memorial presents the story of Australia’s military involvement in the Middle East, and will open to the public on 6 October 2016.

The 150-square-metre display extends the current Conflicts 1945 to today galleries. It covers the First Gulf War, Operation Habitat, the Maritime Interception Force, UN weapons inspections, as well as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The display includes 220 items from both the Memorial’s collection and on loan from current and former Australian Defence Force personnel who served on those deployments.

This is the first major change to the Conflicts 1945 to today galleries since they opened in December 2007.

The Afghanistan section includes the preserved Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) Sarbi, on loan from her handler, Corporal David Simpson.

Sarbi went missing in action during the engagement in which Corporal Mark Donaldson was awarded the Victoria Cross. After 13 months, Sarbi was recovered by US forces and reunited with her unit and handler. The Purple Cross medal awarded to her in recognition of her courage, strength, resilience and service is also on display.

In addition to the new display, the Memorial today launched a powerful 50 minute DVD: Afghanistan: the Australian story. Produced by the Memorial with assistance from renowned ABC journalist Chris Masters, it pulls no punches in presenting what Australians did in Afghanistan and the price that was paid.

The DVD includes 11 new interviews, which provide important new material, particularly about the role of Special Forces in Afghanistan. It also includes a compilation of interviews, film and photographs from the Memorial’s collection and tells the story of the Australian contribution to the war in Afghanistan since 2001.

Director of the Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, said more than 40,000 Australian Defence Force personnel have served in or directly supported operations in the Middle East since 2001.

“Tragically, 44 Australians have died as a result of their service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and hundreds more have been wounded,” Dr Nelson said.

“The nation owes an everlasting debt to current and former ADF personnel who have served for us, shared their stories, and loaned or donated their objects for the display. Afghanistan and the Middle East are now indelibly linked to Australia’s national story and as such it is crucial that their stories are told, and told now.”

DISCLAIMER: The Afghanistan: the Australian story DVD feature is rated M (consumer advice: ‘mature themes and violence’) and contains confronting material which may cause distress to some viewers.

The DVD will be available for purchase from the Memorial’s on-site shop and through its website. It also will be available for commercial digital download later this year.

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