The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Australian War Memorial keeps 'known unto God' on Unknown Soldier Tomb after public outcry

  • Print

CANBERRA, Australia - The Australian War Memorial has reversed a contentious decision to remove "known unto God" from the Tomb of the Australian Unknown Soldier after a public and political outcry.

Memorial director Brendan Nelson refused to confirm The Australian newspaper's report Tuesday that Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a former Roman Catholic seminarian, had personally intervened to prevent the change.

"Knowing Tony Abbott as I do so very well, I suspect he'd be quite comfortable with where we've landed," Nelson told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. The prime minister's office would not immediately comment on that report. Abbott was flying back to Australia Tuesday after a surprise visit to Australian troops in Afghanistan on Monday.

But Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson confirmed that Abbott had opposed the proposed change.

"I was very, very strongly of the view that this was not the right course of action and he very strongly shared my view," Ronaldson told Nine Network television.

The sandstone war memorial opened in 1941 to commemorate Australians killed in World War I and is among Canberra's most popular tourist attractions.

Nelson had proposed replacing the phrase "known unto God," attributed to British writer Rudyard Kipling, with the inscription: "We do not know this Australian's name, we never will."

Those words open a eulogy given by then-Prime Minister Paul Keating for an unknown soldier killed in WWI, exhumed from a French cemetery and re-interred at the memorial in 1993.

Keating was a polarizing politician who led the centre-left Labor Party. Abbott leads the conservative Liberal Party and Nelson is a former Liberal leader.

Nelson said some complainants "had particular views about Mr. Keating." Others accused Nelson of "de-Christianizing" the memorial, which he said was always intended to be a secular institution.

"This was never driven by some suggestion that we should remove 'God' or political correctness or anything of the sort," Nelson said. "The motive was to give permanence to this towering Australian speech by an Australian prime minister."

The memorial's governing council has settled on a compromise that will include Keating's 1993 words — "He is all of them, and he is one of us" — being inscribed in the stone surrounding the soldier's grave.

___

Online: Australian War Memorial site: http://www.awm.gov.au/

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Tree remover has special connection to Grandma Elm

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Young goslings are growing up quickly near Cresent Lake in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba- See Bryksa 30 Day goose project- Day 11- May 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A goose cools off Thursday in water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should political leaders be highly visible on the frontlines of flood fights and other natural disasters?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google