National Site of Recognition for thalidomide survivors and their families

We are establishing a National Site of Recognition for thalidomide survivors and their families, to be located in Canberra.

The National Site of Recognition is part of the broader package of support under the Australian Thalidomide Survivors Support Program

Initial survey

In April 2021, we surveyed survivors, their families, carers and friends to understand what they thought the intent and aspirations for the site should be. 

The 91 responses to the survey helped inform the objective for the site:

The National Site of Recognition for thalidomide survivors and their families aspires to recognise and honour the pain and suffering experienced by thalidomide survivors, as well as the impact on their loved ones, and is to serve as an enduring reminder to all Australians that the lessons of the tragedy must never be forgotten.

The key findings of the survey are:

  • Over half of respondents (51.8%) want the portrayal of thalidomide injuries to be literal, while 24.1% prefer an abstract portrayal.
  • Respondents want a location that is highly visible and close to foot traffic but is peaceful and allows for reflection.
  • Respondents are eager for the site to include natural and landscape or garden elements.
  • Most respondents (83.3%) say it is crucial the site raises awareness and educates the public about the thalidomide tragedy.

National Site of Recognition

Steering committee

We have established a steering committee to help guide decisions about the location, design and dedication of the site. The steering committee acts on behalf of thalidomide survivors, their families, friends, and carers. 

Find out more about the steering committee and view the minutes from committee meetings.

Site location

In November 2021, the Steering Committee was presented with options for the location of the National Site of Recognition.

The Steering Committee discussed the options. They considered how each of the locations aligned with the findings from the survey undertaken with survivors. The Steering Committee agreed a preferred location for the site.

On 1 December 2021, the location was approved by the Canberra National Memorials Committee.

The site is on the foreshore of Lake Burley Griffin in the eastern section of Kings Park, Canberra, ACT.

Design and construction

In December 2021, a call for design proposals was undertaken. In response to this call, three suitable concept design submissions were received.

In January 2022, we surveyed survivors about the three design concepts. We also consulted with the Steering Committee to get their views on the design concepts.

Following these consultations, a preferred design concept was identified.

The preferred design concept features a glass brick sculpture and a seating area. The design has elements to help convey the significance, impact and history of the thalidomide tragedy in Australia.

On 9 February 2022, the preferred design concept for the National Site of Recognition was approved by the Canberra National Memorials Committee.

Design work is underway, with construction expected to be completed in 2023.

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