National Workers Memorial

The National Workers Memorial was unveiled 28 April 2013 in Kings Park Canberra, to honour Australians who have lost their lives to work-related accidents, incidents or disease. The National Workers Memorial acknowledges the vital contribution and achievement of Australian workers in building the nation.

The Memorial features a series of tall, slender columns representing the contributions and sacrifice of workers from each state and territory in Australia. From each column, concentric ripples radiate out until they intersect to create a public plaza. This ripple effect acknowledges the profound impact work-related loss has on communities and families.

A website has been developed to link with the Memorial, providing an online space for family and community members to interact and find more information about work health and safety issues. Click here to visit the National Workers Memorial website [External Link].

National Workers' Memorial Opening

Background to the Memorial

In May 2011, the Australian Government provided funding of $3.0 million for the design and construction of a National Workers Memorial. A design competition was held in late 2011, with the winner selected by an independent jury from a competitive pool of twenty-six entries.

The National Workers Memorial:

  • Serves as a reminder of the importance of workplace safety and the need to continue to work together as a nation to improve health and safety performance and prevent work-related accidents, incidents and disease
  • Honours and pays tribute to all of the working Australians who have lost their lives to work-related accidents, incidents and disease
  • Provides a place to reflect and remember the sacrifice of all workers who have lost their lives
  • Recognises and celebrates the vital contribution and significant achievements of Australia's workers to the building of this nation.

The Site

The Memorial is located in Kings Park Canberra on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. Kings Park forms part of the Canberra Central Parklands which are nationally significant because of their place in the Griffin Plan and for their unique blending of commemorative and natural landscapes.

The memorial site is set into the side of an elevated area overlooking the lake among a group of Eurabbie or Blue Gums (Eucalyptus Bicostata).

The Design

The winning design for the National Workers Memorial was announced at Parliament House on 14 March 2012. The design titled 'Workers Glade' was developed by Sydney based architecture firm Johnson Pilton Walker. The National Workers Memorial comprises six key spaces:

  • A place to Gather
  • A place of Understanding
  • A place of Remembrance
  • A place of the People
  • A place of Values and Actions
  • A place of Rest.

The making of the 'Workers Glade' has its own story - a story written in materials, craft and collaboration.

National Workers' Memorial Design Plan

A Place to Gather

From the lakeside a forested pathway climbs beside an open terrace. The Memorial is glimpsed through the trees, nestling quietly into the hillside. A new space is created by additional mass plantings of red and yellow box (Eucalyptus melliodora and Eucalyptus polyanthermos). A place of congregation and celebration.

National Workers' Memorial Opening

A Place of Understanding

At the end of the path is an interpretative panel. This panel introduces the Memorial purpose with drawings, photos and text whilst highlighting the overarching value of Knowledge in the prevention of work-related deaths.

A Place of Remembrance

Emerging from the new forest, the visitor encounters a natural swale, crossed via a bridge flanked by fragrant rosemary hedges (Rosmarinus officianus). Visitors are invited to pick a sprig of rosemary to make a tribute at the memorial. The entrance is marked with the quote: every worker has the right to return home each day. This important threshold acknowledges the sense of loss and invites the visitor to experience the Memorial.

A Place of the People

The visitor arrives at the Memorial glade itself and first encounters eight stone columns positioned to outline a map of Australia. Each is symbolically dedicated to the communities, families and workers (the people) of each state and territory and one's home.

National Workers' Memorial Design - A Place of the People

The columns are to be crafted from stone sourced from places as varied as the alpine reaches of Tasmania, to the tropical regions of the Northern Territory. The finishes are smooth to the touch, and subdued in the light:

  • Victorian Bluestone
  • Australian Capital Territory Boral Porphy
  • New South Wales Grandee
  • Queensland Bianca Mist
  • Western Australia Austral Juperana
  • Northern Territory Darwin Brown
  • South Australia Balmoral Green
  • Tasmania Natone.

A Place of the Values and Actions

Concentric ripples radiate from each column and overlap to form a shared, public plaza. This ripple effect acknowledges the profound impact work related loss has on communities and families.

At the foot of each column is a metal baseplate engraved with a Value, from which emanates a series of ripples leading to a second engraved inlay with an inspiring quote applicable to each Value.

National Workers' Memorial Design - A Place of the People

A Place of Rest

Nestled into the hillside, at the rear of the Memorial, is a terrace and seating; a place of refuge from the sun and the wind. A location to pause and reflect within earshot of the National Carillon's bells. Eight eucalypts provide shade to this final place of the 'Workers Glade'.

A Place to Engage

A dedicated website tells the many stories behind the values and actions at the centre of the Memorial. Significantly the website highlights the importance of work health and safety issues and provides an online space for family and community members to visit. Click here to visit the website.

Values and their Meaning

Australia's achievements in work health and safety are built on values that create safe and healthy work. These values were important historic drivers and continue to be relevant today.

The following values form the foundation of the Memorial:

  • Knowledge – Translating knowledge and research into practice is a cornerstone of effective OHS – education and research are critical to improving how well we prevent illness and injury, both through harnessing professional expertise and through providing appropriate competencies to people in workplaces.
  • Dignity – Australia's approach to work health and safety is built on the work of generations of Australians who have campaigned for workplaces that treat people with dignity and respect. Our legal framework aims to create workplaces that provide people with rewarding jobs in a safe and healthy environment.
  • Prevention – We must stop accidents, incidents and diseases from happening in the first place through sound risk management processes. We shouldn't just treat and rehabilitate the sick and injured or compensate those who have lost loved ones as a result of workrelated accidents, incidents and disease.
  • Representation – Workers have a right to have a say about issues that affect their health and safety at work. Workplaces where workers are represented and able to have a say about OHS are safer and better able to control risks.
  • Commitment – Employers are responsible for providing work without risks to safety and health. Without management commitment to OHS, prevention of accidents, incidents and disease won't happen.
  • Teamwork – The spirit of helping a mate and looking out for each other is critical to providing safe and healthy workplaces. Teamwork is essential to solving OHS issues.
  • Design – Workplaces, equipment and systems of work that are designed to be safe and healthy establish good OHS.
  • Diversity – Australian workplaces bring together people from all over the world – great industrial ventures like the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme played an important part in creating our multicultural society. Workers bring their diverse backgrounds and experiences to their work. Preventing accidents, incidents and disease requires recognition of this diversity to ensure that we look after the different needs of each person.
  • Family – A key driver for improving OHS is family, and this was a key historic source of government engagement in the area. Australia's first factory inspector, Augusta Zadow, was employed in order to improve working conditions in South Australian factories and shops, particularly for women workers so that they were better able to care for their families.