Artist Julie Squires, an ex-Novocastrian (ex Newcastle) now living in Melbourne, was chosen as the person to create a sculpture commemorating the road's construction and its reasons for conception; she took the responsibility most seriously and explains the kinds of research that went in to her creation.
"Particularly for me, if I'm sculpting a piece that has such historical significance, all the details have to be accurate, and all the information authentic. I started with the Lorne Historical Society, who have a fantastic collection of photographs of the men who actually built the road, so I was able to get details such as the clothing, the shape of the shovels and pick handles... the wheelbarrows and that sort of thing. I also went to the RSL archives library in the city and spent some time going through books, reading stories about men who'd come back, and getting the details from the military side of things. Of course I read books on the 8th Battalion, whom I believe the men from around Ballarat were part of, were involved in building the road." "One of the main things is that there are two underlying themes I had to try and express; one was the fact they were returned servicemen, and that it works as a memorial to those veterans, and another is they built the road by hand, and we're trying to educate people to the significance of that, and the fact these men had come back from the war and were given the mission of digging out the road, and they stayed together in [camps] with the men they'd fought [alongside]. I just tried to get those two themes together... things like their boots, their jackets, their braces and the classic military hat... one of the main things are that the two figures are connected by water bottles... I've used the World War 1 water bottle as the significant component that links the two figures together."
Although the First World War is a universe away in terms of politics, media and technology compared to today's armed conflicts, Julie's intensive research upon her subject matter found herself - and her work - making links to the diggers of the 21st century, and it's her hope people will consider that when they ponder her work.
"One of the things that hit me, was that I always thought of soldiers as being men - it sounds funny - but when I was going through these images, to me they just seemed like boys, they were 19 and 20, youthful and young and heading off to war, and it was a different perception for me; I actually felt quite maternal towards them - I'm older now, of course," she laughs, but quickly becomes quite serious. "It really brought home to me what the men - the current soldiers - are going though over there, and then have to get back in to society. I think it's something we all have to be appreciative and sensitive to."