Soil Collection Program
Surveyor-General Narelle Underwood collecting soil in Orange
In 2016 acclaimed artist Fiona Hall was selected through an art commission process to create an artwork for the Memorial’s new Hall of Service – a civic space that architecturally and artistically mirrors the Hall of Memory in the original building.
Fiona Hall proposed that a plaque be created for every town, suburb and locality around NSW that enlistees for the First World War gave as their place of address. A sample of soil collected from the area will be displayed alongside the place name. Close to 1700 plaques will be displayed on mass around the walls of the Hall of Service.
Resolution of the list of place names
A draft list of NSW place names for the artwork was created by extracting the address information from the Australian Defence Force Academy’s AIF* Project database of First World War enlistees. Its data has been developed, refined and tested over a 30 year period.
The draft list of addresses was initially reviewed by Dr Peter Orlovich, a 50 year member of the Geographical Names Board, and then checked by staff of the Geographical Names Board, representatives of the Veterans community and the NSW Office for Veterans Affairs (OVA). At the conclusion of the review process close to 1,700 NSW locations were confirmed.
The soil collection
The locations have been mapped and OVA, the Geographical Names Board and Spatial Services surveyors are making plans to collect soil samples either from a town or suburb’s First World War memorial, or a suitable alternative such as the local school or a reserve if the locale does not have a memorial.
You can track the Program's progress via this live map.
Please note: OVA and the Geographical Names Board continue to allocate the exact sites for collection. The map's data will be updated as the project progresses. If you have any questions about the project, or have some advice on the collection sites please contact the Office for Veterans Affairs.
On the project’s completion
When Fiona Hall’s artwork is complete and on display, Memorial visitors will be able to view interesting information on each listed location via digital devices. Information will include the details and date the local soil was collected, the names of every enlistee who gave that location as their home address, and pinpointed maps showing the local area and its surrounding memorials and schools.
The Collection Program was launched in Bathurst on 27 March 2017. Collections have so far focused on the Far West region of the state. The fantastic support of local communities in the first phase of the Program has been the key element in its success.
Soil collections were incorporated into Anzac Day Services in Hill End, a former gold-mining town an hour’s drive from Bathurst, and Picton, south-west of Sydney in the Wollondilly Shire.
NSW Surveyor-General and Chair of the Geographical Names Board, Narelle Underwood, is a Wollondilly resident. She joined 12,000 community members at the Dawn Service at Picton’s Memorial Park and collected the local soil.
250 people gathered at the Hill End Memorial including ex-service personnel, teachers and students from Hill End Public School, the local policeman, local residents and many visitors who had made the trip to Hill End for the Anzac Service. The Commemoration Address was devoted to providing the community with information of the Anzac Memorial Centenary Project and the Hall of Service and its commissioned artwork. Following the address a number of local community representatives were invited to witness the taking of the soil sample from the rear of the War Memorial.
Documented research compiled by Mrs Helen Wood (The Golden Diggers) shows that 174 volunteers from the Hill End District took part in the First World War. The names of those 174 enlistees were inscribed on Memorial Plaques installed as part of the community’s “Centenary of Anzac" War Memorial Restorations in 2015.
After the service many people came up to me expressing their support for the soil collection project, noting how proud they felt at having our small rural village being recognised in this way. This project will bring those who live remote from Sydney closer to our state Memorial, many who I spoke to also said they will be visiting the completed Memorial as soon as it is opened.
On behalf of our Community and the Hill End War Memorial Committee please accept our thanks and our sincere acknowledgement of your work in this wonderful state wide community project.
Mr Jim Shanahan, Custodian Hill End War Memorial.
* Australian Imperial Force