Napier Waller Art Prize a good War Memorial initiative targeted at Defence personnel and veterans – but paid for by an arms manufacturer

The Australian War Memorial has launched the ­Napier Waller Art Prize, the first national art prize offered ­exclusively to Defence personnel. (Memorial information on the prize. Fairfax story. Murdoch story.)

The prize is open to all current and former Defence personnel and aims ‘to promote the healing ­potential of art for servicemen and servicewomen and to raise a broader awareness of the military experience and the impact of ­service on the individual’. Napier Waller lost his right arm in combat during World War I but became a significant artist later, being responsible for, among other works, the Napier Waller Windows at the Memorial.

The Napier Waller Prize should be welcomed. It is an example – still relatively rare – of the Memorial getting beyond its repetitive and sentimental portrayal of battlefield exploits to look instead at the longer-term impacts of our wars – and to do something positive for the men and women who bear the brunt of service.

The University of Canberra is a partner in the venture as is Thales Australia (donor of the $10 000 prize), part of the French Thales group, the world’s 11th largest arms manufacturer by value of sales. Thales makes munitions, weapons, optronics, protected vehicles, mission packages, and command, control, communications and computer (C4) systems – products which, depending on whose hands they fall into, could either protect or damage the people who may compete for the Napier Waller Prize.

David Stephens

15 March 2018