National Emergency Services Memorial

The National Emergency Services Memorial was dedicated in July 2004 in honour of the thousands of men and women who serve and have served in Australia s emergency management and services organisations. The memorial provides a place to reflect on those who have been injured or died while carrying out their duties for the benefit of the wider Australian community.

Emergency Services in Australia is a collective description for a wide range of services provided by agencies throughout the country, involving a great many professionals, both career staff and volunteer workers.

These agencies are responsible for the protection and preservation of life and property from harm resulting from incidents and emergencies that are considered in a field ranging from small yet hazardous events to catastrophic disasters, depending on their scale. All levels of government and private enterprise can be involved.

The agencies may cover initial response teams such as paramedics, fire, police and State Emergency Service, through disaster recovery practitioners in maritime, high country or urban search and rescue, to consequence management specialists in emergency medicine, other health and legal related arenas such as chemical, biological and radiological incidents, psychological and legal services. Other specialist areas include flood mitigation, civil defence, aero-medical evacuation, Australian Defence Force units, and the utility areas of communications, water and electricity supply, and transport.

As part of emergency management, emergency services also recognise the contribution of the welfare services, community response and help agencies, animal rescue, environmental protection, and community preparedness. Following the loss of lives in the Victorian bushfires of late 1998, the Commonwealth Government committed one million dollars to the design and construction of the National Emergency Services Memorial. Melbourne landscape architects, Aspect Melbourne Pty Ltd, won a national design competition in March 2003 for the memorial.

The National Emergency Services Memorial is the first of many proposed civilian memorials in Kings Park. Its design leads the viewer into a sense of shared human experience with those who serve in emergency management and services. It draws on the experience of many tragic events, through perhaps a subliminal recollection of such commonly shared and emotive Australian moments as lines of grass fire at night, lightning flashes and the shadows of one s body cast by strong sunlight or fire.

Even so, the blanket or tarpaulin memorial wall gives the visitor a sense of safety. The raised wall is an expression of comfort, to reflect the warmth of the sun and give shelter from the wind off Lake Burley Griffin. Shadows of visitors are superimposed on to the memorial, drawing the viewer into direct relationship with the activity of the emergency depicted, in an act of fellow feeling and shared experience.

A feature of the memorial wall is a three-dimensional frieze which gathers a collection of images reflecting the diversity of emergency services personnel at work, and records some of their experiences. It is a visual expression of a story and experience of national emergency management based on the underlying principles of Prevent, Prepare, Respond, Recover. The varied level and scale of detail on the surface allows the images to be read at different distances, allowing images to appear depending on the position of the viewer and the light and shadow on the textured surface. The frieze provides multiple, simultaneous and non-linear readings.

The photographic image that is depicted in the frieze involved an exhaustive information and image search. This research process included the collection of texts in the form of histories, reportage, articles, discussion papers, and most importantly, of various personal histories, oral testimonies and anecdotes. One personal account of a road trauma rescue operation reinforced the need for the frieze to express not just the spectacle of the accident, disaster or crisis but the human experience and the centrality of touch and human contact.

The design and construction of the memorial wall involved innovative computer modelling and fabrication techniques. A two stage mould process was carried out prior to the final concrete being cast.

The east face of the memorial wall is highly polished revealing words that embody the values and professionalism of the emergency services peronnel. The National Emergency Services Memorial is a place of celebration, as well as reflection and contemplation. It provides a national focus for organised special events and services for all people involved and the emergencies to which they have responded. The memorial is designed to invite still moments of engagement, slowing down and holding the visitor in contemplation and reflection.

Located in Kings Park by the shore of Lake Burley Griffin, access to the National Emergency Services Memorial is by path from both the Rond Terraces car park and the cycle path along Lake Burley Griffin. It can be seen from across Lake Burley Griffin by day and night.

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