Calls for Bendigo to fill exhibition walls with Anzac history

IN THE TRENCHES: Teacher Trish Di Donato joins veterans Cliff Richards, Bill Clarke, Terry Nolan and Graham Flanders in a simulation of a WW1 trench. The trench is part of an upcoming exhibition out the back of the Bendigo RSL.

IN THE TRENCHES: Teacher Trish Di Donato joins veterans Cliff Richards, Bill Clarke, Terry Nolan and Graham Flanders in a simulation of a WW1 trench. The trench is part of an upcoming exhibition out the back of the Bendigo RSL.

A maze of blank walls have been raised out the back of the Bendigo RSL, with hopes the community will help transform the new open-air corridors into a museum honouring local Diggers.

The plan is to open in November but last Tuesday the RSL invited school humanities teachers from throughout the region to Bendigo for a sneak preview.

Bendigo RSL committee president Cliff Richards hoped the visit would spark ideas for items to fill the new gallery space.

“What we are hoping the teachers will do is use their imagination and their student’s expertise to build upon these walls,” Mr Richards said.

Only a few exhibition pieces had been supplied by the RSL. 

“You’ll notice many of the walls in here are currently blank. And we are doing that on purpose,” Mr Richards said.

He hoped community members would supply the bulk of the pieces.

“So you as a community member can walk in here and say ‘oh, my dad, or my grandpa, was a soldier, I’ve got some lovely photos and some lovely history’. We’d invite you to build upon these blank walls by contributing some of that history,” he said.

Mr Richards said visitors would enter the corridors and be transported into the period before World War One, before winding their way through time to recent conflicts such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bendigo South East Secondary College teacher Trish Di Donato’s students had already begun putting together display material.

After hearing the stories of seven Vietnam War veterans, 16 students put together videos and a booklet.

“What we have is lots of photos, because obviously a lot of (veterans) took a lot of pictures when they were over there ... you also hear their voices (on the video),” Ms Di Donato said.

She said the students’ projects would encourage people to reflect on veterans’ experiences.

“We had one veteran who gave us a ‘contact’, which is basically (a recording) of machine gun fire. And one of the gentlemen gave us (a recording) of his marching out parade at the Puckapunyal military training base,” Ms Di Donato said.

Students also planned to write a one-page summary about the experiences of individual local veterans.

Ms Di Donato said students had been fascinated by their projects.

“It’s made the older gentlemen really appreciate that someone wants to hear their story,” she said.

The Open Air Military Museum exhibition begins on Saturday 12 November and will finish in April next year.

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