I can do no better than cite the wording on the plaque at the memorial – references to pictures are my insertions:
“This memorial was dedicated on 18 January 2006 by Mr Jon Stanhope MLA, ACT Chief Minister.
On Saturday 18 January 2003, the bushfires which had been burning in the hills to the west and south-west of Canberra for more than a week reached the perimeter of the city. Four people lost their lives , nearly five hundred homes were destroyed, countless pets and other animals were killed, and there was widespread damage to rural properties, parks, forests, gardens and urban infrastructure.
This Memorial has been commissioned by the ACT Government to acknowledge the impact of the 2003 bushfires, mark the process of recovery, and thank the many organisations and individuals who played crucial roles in the fire fighting and recovery efforts.
The memorial is designed by Canberra artists, Tess Horwitz Tony Steel and Martyn Jolly and incorporates elements requested by the ACT community. It is a journey from the day of the fire, through the process of recovery, to the honouring of memory.
The entrance memorial walls (picture 1) are made from the community’s salvaged and inscribed bricks (picture 2) which contain messages of grief and gratitude. Beyond the walls, a site framed by a grove of casuarinas contains red glass and metal forms (pictures 3 and 4) that refer to the force of the firestorm and the lightning strikes that sparked the main fires.
An avenue leads to an amphitheatre enclosing a pond and bubbling spring. The glass columns bordering the pond (picture 5) contain details from photos provided by the community which speak of memory and human resilience. “
The design of the surrounding landscape and the stream are an integral part of the memorial. Most of the plant species selected by the artists are native, many indigenous to the surrounding area.
The original memorial did not contain the names of the four people who died in the fires. Bushfire-affected families subsequently took it upon themselves to add their own heartfelt addition to the Memorial – a small plain white plaque with just the four names thereon. This you can see just outside the entrance walls.
While I think the memorial is tasteful and appropriate to what happened in Canberra in 2003, this is not a view shared by everyone – as might be expected in the circumstances. Some consider it too little too late – it took three years, some consider it unnecessary and some believe that as the government has never accepted blame for errors made at the time of the fires the construction of the memorial added insult to injury. Several residents directly impacted by the fires chose to boycott a 10th anniversary function in 2013.
For whatever reason the government seems to have chosen to underplay the memorial to the extent that there are no signposts for it and that the address on the government site is incorrect.
For me this is one of the best of Canberra’s abundant memorials and I encourage you to drop in and reflect.
The Memorial’s actual location is close to the intersection of Cotter and Uriarra roads. Take the Uriarra Road at this intersection for about 100 metres and turn left into a small car park at Mr Stromolo Forrest Park. It about 20 metres walk from the car park.
Address: Intersection of Cotter and Uriarra roads
Directions: Near the intersection of Cotter Road and Eucumbene Drive, Weston