The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience travelling exhibition is entering its final stretch after more than 18 months touring the country.
The immersive and interactive exhibition of First World War artefacts has visited 21 regional, rural and capital city locations and is currently finishing up in New South Wales.
The exhibition will open in Newcastle on 29 March for seven days before a 13-day finale at the Sydney International Convention Centre from 15-27 April.
Reservist and exhibition supporter Chief Petty Officer Maritime Logistics - Support Operations Debra Funnell said she enjoyed the opportunity to connect with people and share special moments with them.
“Some of the stories I heard and the people I met, were truly amazing. In Adelaide I met an elderly lady, Thelma Pope, and we had a lovely connection,” she said.
“She loved the Navy uniform. She gave me a hug and told me about one of her relatives who fought in the war. She was such a gorgeous lady and I will hold fond memories of our meeting.
“Through the four Experiences I have supported to date, the best part has been meeting the families of the diggers.”
Chief Petty Officer Funnell said her involvement in the exhibition was one of the highlights of her 40-year career in the Navy.
“Sharing moments with the visitors has been priceless. I met so many wonderful people and connected with all of them,” she said.
“It’s actually hard to pick out the highlights as there were so many.
“On a personal level, being an exhibition guide has been one of the best times in my reserve career, mainly due to working with such a great bunch of people – the other members and the rest of the team have been amazing and so professional.”
By the end of the Geelong exhibition in February, Defence had supported some 1,100 individual personnel, which is in the order of around 20,000 hours – or 45 per cent of the total work force.
Lieutenant Commander Brett Lane recalled many of the visitors through the exhibition, both young and old, were visibly moved by what they saw and heard.
“Sometimes there’s a tear, sometimes silent contemplation and others who really want to talk as they emerge,” he said.
“Visitors have often looked for the uniforms to express their opinions and ask questions. It has been wonderful to see what this history means to Australians and how appreciative so many of the visitors are of the Australian Defence Force.”
Lieutenant Commander Lane said he was delighted to hear the visitors express their appreciation for the decision to bring the experience to their communities, and many asked him if there would be more.
“One message in the visitors’ book that sticks in my mind was neatly written, in what appeared to be a young hand,” he said.
“It said 'The most awesome history lesson I’ve ever had'.”
Warrant Officer Aviation Technician Aircraft Ian Daley was so taken by his first event that he put his hands up to assist in subsequent locations.
“The exhibition has been such an amazing personal experience for me; it has allowed me to share in the commemoration of our Centenary of Anzac,” he said.