Online exhibition tugs at the heartstrings

Online exhibition tugs at the heartstrings

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Never-before-seen footage of stranded asylum seekers being rescued amid storm-driven waves is just one of the items on display in a new online exhibition on the history of the navy.

CAPTION: Curator and AWM Fleet Co-Commander Andrew Schroder stands in front of one of HMAS Brisbane’s 5-inch gun mounts as depicted in the online exhibition. Story and photo by Corporal Jacob Joseph.

HMAS Pirie was one of the first to respond when an Indonesian fishing boat with nearly 100 people on board ran into jagged cliffs off Christmas Island during heavy monsoon weather in 2010.

Australian War Memorial (AWM) curator and co-commander Andrew Schroder said it was the first time maritime security operations had been featured in an AWM exhibition.

“You see a rigid hull inflatable being tossed around, heads in the water, the wrecked boat – it’s so poignant that the Memorial had to put in a disclaimer acknowledging the nature of the footage,” Commander Schroder said.

“The commander [Pirie] ends his interview by talking about how the rescuers were only 18 and 19 years old, and he has a tear in his eye.

“These kids made life-saving decisions about who to pull out of the water.”

There were 42 people rescued by naval personnel in what was one of the worst civilian maritime disasters in Australian history.

Launched in December and the AWM’s first online-only exhibition, Australia’s Navies: Under the Southern Cross tells stories from colonial times to the present day.

Commander Schroder said they wanted to showcase new perspectives and the lesser-known items, mainly based on the approximately 900,000 objects stored at the national collection.

The exhibition covers military, diplomatic and constabulary operations and took three years to put together.

New aspects of the Navy’s history are shown as well as emotionally.

Viewers can see the HMAS Toowoomba custom drug disposal bin ‘invented’ by the HMAS Darwin shipping company, built by Toowoomba for their 2020 deployment and used to bust a record drug bust of around 3,000kg of hashish and heroin in the Mid – East to do away with. .

Exhibits from military, peacekeeping and constabulary operations are displayed in 10 online chapters, from the telescope of HMCS Victoria to the United Nations berets worn by naval personnel during operations in the Gaza Strip.

“The aim of the exhibition was to use the objects to commemorate naval people and their service, provide a history of Australia’s navies and explain why Australia has a navy,” Commander Schroder said.

To view the exhibition visit:

CAPTION: Video courtesy of AWM.



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