Veterans Traded Rifles For Shovels To Shape A 243km Memorial To Their Mates

What do you do with a group of returned soldiers, who are unemployed and have way too much time on their hands?

Just over a century ago, Howard Hitchcock had an idea. It was a simple one and it involved putting returned soldiers fresh from the horrors of war to work building one of Australia’s most iconic pieces of infrastructure.

Hitchcock’s vision was to create an iconic tourist road along the cliffs of the Southern Ocean of Western Victoria that would provide employment for returning Diggers, provide access to coastal settlements and provide holiday experiences for visitors.

Work began on the spectacular road, which girts the Victorian coast from Lorne to Warrnambool, in 1919.

Nearly one hundred years later we’re now beginning the centenary celebrations of the Great Ocean Road – a 243km stretch of bitumen which is probably the world’s biggest and longest war memorial.

Great Ocean Road.
Photo Credit: Robert Blackburn

According to Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism Chairman, Wayne Kayler-Thomson, the road today “holds its place proudly as a global destination for tourists and locals alike.”

“Great Ocean Road is a richly historic destination with many untold stories. Sharing these stories with 6 million-plus yearly visitors is critical to encouraging them to slow down, stay longer and – most importantly come back.

“It is a place that captivates and intrigues first-time visitors and sees many visitors return for this reason. It breathes life into the region and has done so for 100 years. That is something we proudly celebrate.”

And what does the future hold?

The vision could include, the Eden Project at Anglesea, to turn a former coal mine into an eco-tourism attraction, an upgraded road, including inland routes and a world-class 12 Apostles Precinct Visitor Experience.

The Twelve Apostles.
Photo Crediti: Mark Watson

September’s celebration include using a variety of media to tell stories of the road and the region.

“Film, art and augmented reality experiences will be told in Pop-Up Cinemas within the landscape, meaning there is something for everyone,” says Kayler-Thomson.

“We are inviting visitors to take their time, slow down and enjoy the individual stories of the road so that they too can create more of their own.”


Lead Image: The Great Ocean Road alongside the Twleve Apostles.
Photo Credit: Roberto Seba

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