Wax and polish for Canberra’s first lady

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Bellona.. washed, waxed and polished.


CANBERRA’S first lady isn’t Rosemary Follett, the ACT’s first chief minister, nor Jennifer Morrison or Lady Lynne Cosgrove. We are talking about Canberra’s first public outdoor work of art, Sir Bertram Mackennal’s sculpture “War”, better known locally as “Bellona”, the Roman goddess of war.

Mackennal gifted Bellona to the Australian government in 1915 as a tribute to the Australians who fought at Gallipoli. She was first displayed outside the Federal Parliament in Melbourne in 1921. It was not a popular placement and she was moved to Canberra in 1926 where she was the city’s first displayed piece of outdoor public art.

She stood outside of the Albert Hall for many years, being the unfortunate subject of many practical jokes, including being dressed in bras and bikini tops, being painted several times and even having her more prominent female attributes polished to a bright yellow sheen with Brasso.

In 1954, in the week before the Queen’s visit to Canberra, Bellona moved to the grounds of the Australian War Memorial. Over the next 27 years she spent time outside of the Administrative Building in Parkes, and in the grounds of Government House. After lobbying from Australian War Memorial art curator Judith McKay, Bellona returned to the Memorial grounds in 1981.

When the Memorial’s Sculpture Garden was being developed in 1993, Bellona again stood proudly outside of the Albert Hall. Unlike her earlier posting, this time she attracted little attention from pranksters; perhaps testament to a changing acceptance of public nudity.

Since 1999, Bellona has stood near the Lone Pine in the Memorial grounds. Every five years the Memorial’s conservators give her a thorough wash, wax, and polish. At 113 years old, she’s still in great condition and she deserves nothing less.

George Bailey, senior conservator, Australian War Memorial

Yes, but, Mr Macklin

CULTURE and religion are not the same, writes columnist Robert Macklin (“Maybe we need freedom from religion”, CN, March 7). That may be the case in Western democracies, nevertheless the majority religions significantly impact the culture of any nation.

For example, child marriage, polygamy, FGM and hand chopping are not part of our Australian culture. The influence of The Bible produces a very different culture from that of other religious texts, including laws, dress code, civility, personal liberty and freedom of speech and worship. Robert might do well to ponder the words of Solzhenitsyn who said: “When men forget God, Communism or a similar catastrophe is likely to be the fate that awaits them.”

John Farrands, Isaacs

Lost the plot

PAUL Costigan’s numerous articles, and Susan Maroc’s letter “The contempt for our trees” (CN, March 7), clearly demonstrate that the ACT government has “lost the plot” as far as the public is concerned. Or should I say, they have replaced the plot with: “To hell with the public, we are in charge”.

It appears the only recourse we may have is the ballot box at the next election – even then would we have a worthy alternative? Surely we can’t do any worse than the current mob!

Barry Smith, via email

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