Australia's National War Memorial director Brendan Nelson was described as one of the best speakers in 25 years at The Illawarra Connection's networking dinner at the Novotel on Tuesday.
Dr Nelson talked about his career in medicine, politics and as an ambassador in Brussels. But what he accomplished at the National War Memorial with the introduction of new exhibits was timely before ANZAC Day.
When he started at the War Memorial he asked a question about when an Afghanistan exhibit was likely. And was told that would be years, there was little space or money and would have to wait until the war was over. His reply was "I can't believe what I am hearing".
"I said we have 35,000 young Australians coming back to a country that has no idea what they have been doing. They can't explain it to their family let alone the rest of the country. We have to tell it and we have to tell it now. And maybe if we told the story of the Vietnam War broadly, deeply and proudly in the late 70's some of those men might not have suffered as much as they have".
Dr Nelson sought an investigative journalist to help create an exhibition where the men and women who served in Afghanistan could see, hear and feel something of themselves. It opened in 2013.
When asked what his greatest achievement in six years was he said it was a team achievement.
"When I saw 100 days out from the Invictus Games young service men and women, their families and supporters at the Australian War Memorial seeing this place as much theirs as earlier generations that is the most significant achievement," he said.
"And I received a letter from a Naval officer after we opened the Afghanistan exhibition who said thank you for telling my 11 year old son in words I never could why his father has spent so much time away from home".