• Exhibition time
Lance Corporal Saulo Waia being interviewed by Dr Robert Hall, 1991

This photo shows Lance Corporal Saulo Waia, who served with the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion during the Second World War, being interviewed by Memorial Research Officer Dr Robert Hall in 1991. Lance Corporal Waia, who was born on the island of Saibai in the Torres Strait, explained that as there is only a small channel between Sabai and Papua New Guinea, he and his six brothers joined up to protect their home from Japanese invasion.

Telling their stories explores the changing ways in which the Australian War Memorial has told the stories of Australian servicemen and servicewomen.

Conceived on the Western Front in 1916, the Australian War Memorial was established to ensure that Australians back home understood the experience and sacrifice of those who fought in the First World War. By the time it opened in 1941, the Second World War had started, and plans were already being made to expand the Memorial.

Today the Memorial presents diverse stories of Australian experiences of war across numerous conflicts. Through photographs, artworks, documents and objects, the exhibition explores the behind-the-scenes activities of the Memorial, such as collecting, documenting, conserving and curating. While the is past is often revisited with fresh eyes and using new technologies, the traditions and methodologies established during the First World War continue to inform our work.

Accompanying the exhibition is a series of vodcasts featuring Memorial curators talking about a story or project that has been important to them. These are being released during the course of the exhibition and can be accessed from this page and from the Memorial’s YouTube channel.

Telling their stories is the fourth and final part of the exhibition series A home on a southern hill, which marks the 75th anniversary of the Memorial by exploring its history and its continuing relevance.

diary page

A Wartime Diary: Tracey Langner

While investigating a recently donated and beautifully illustrated Second World War diary, Assistant Curator of Private Records Tracey Langner took an unexpected journey of discovery from the author’s time as a prisoner of war through to his illustrious post-war career in the arts.

Find out more about Gilbert Docking, OAM, and his wartime diary 


Inked - Tattoos and the Military: Stephanie Boyle

Telling Their Stories Vodcast

Tattooing has long been practiced within the armed forces, but is only now beginning to be researched and documented by the Memorial. Stephanie Boyle, Senior Curator, Photographs, Film and Sound talks about her recent encounter with a female soldier recently returned from Afghanistan, and the particular meaning that her tattoos hold for her and her family.

Read more about Stephanie Boyle’s tattoo research.

Special Ops’ stories

From the shadows: Dr Karl James

Telling Their Stories Vodcast

How do you build an exhibition about Australia’s highly secretive Special Operations Forces when their identities are protected and their activities are classified? Dr Karl James, a historian from the Memorial’s Military History Section and curator of ‘From the Shadows: Australia’s Special Forces’, talks about the challenge of telling , and discusses one of his favourite objects from the exhibition.

Find out more about the exhibition From the Shadows 


Art of Nation: Anthea Gunn

Telling Their Stories Vodcast

The way the Memorial tells stories is always evolving and the form of the Memorial building also changes. Senior Curator of Art Dr Anthea Gunn explains how 3D visualisation technology was used to digitally recreate the earliest drawn plan for the Memorial in the online exhibition ‘Art of Nation’, which displays the Memorial’s First World War art collection as originally intended by its founder, Charles Bean.

See the Art of Nation online exhibition.

Ceremonial dancer at the installation of the APY Lands Commission, 2017

In Defence of Country: Michael Bell

Telling Their Stories Vodcast

The most significant change in the Memorial’s storytelling of recent years is the presentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defence of country. Indigenous Liaison Officer Michael Bell explains the significance of the painting Kulatangku angakanyini manta munu Tjukurpa [Country and Culture will be protected by spears], recently commissioned by the Memorial and painted by artists from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in South Australia.