Avenue of Honour Spirit Soldiers installation could be Albany’s ‘next big thing’ ahead of 2026 bicentenary

Sarah MakseAlbany Advertiser
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An artist's impression of Spirit Soldiers lining Albany's Avenue of Honour.
Camera IconAn artist's impression of Spirit Soldiers lining Albany's Avenue of Honour. Credit: Navigator Photografix

As night falls, 120 soldiers flanking the Avenue of Honour start to glow.

Lit from below, each is unique, a salute to those who sailed for World War I from Albany’s shores — many never to return.

Called Spirit Soldiers, they are a grand vision for a permanent art installation tipped to be the region’s “next big thing” in time for Albany’s bicentenary celebrations in 2026.

The project aims to build on the momentum of the successful Field of Light: Avenue of Honour exhibition, which brought more than 186,000 people to Mt Clarence in 2018-19.

After more than a year of planning, the first Spirit Soldier prototype crafted by local artist Kristen Siyver arrived at the City of Albany last week.

The life-sized soldier took more than 55 hours to craft, moulded from layers of chicken wire to create a smooth statue with a rifle and rucksack.

Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington and committee member Peter Grigg with the Spirit Soldier prototype.
Camera IconAlbany Mayor Dennis Wellington and committee member Peter Grigg with the Spirit Soldier prototype. Credit: Sarah Makse/ Albany Advertiser

The soldiers will be illuminated from beneath, giving them a haunting appearance, each fitted with a transmitter to broadcast an audio story to the phones of onlookers.

Inspired by a similar project in the UK, the proposed Spirit Soldier installation, headed up by a community committee, has already gained the support of City of Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington.

“We want it to be a town project — a project where we are fulfilling and complementing the story of the Anzac,” Cr Wellington said.

“This is a continuation of the Anzac story and a permanent reminder to people that this is where the story started.

“You can imagine the atmosphere, on Anzac Day before dawn — it’s pitch black, going through that avenue to get up to the dawn service.

An artist's impression of Spirit Soldiers lining Albany's Avenue of Honour.
Camera IconAn artist's impression of Spirit Soldiers lining Albany's Avenue of Honour. Credit: Navigator Photografix

“With these guys standing there, the emotion is going to be huge.”

“It’s a very emotive story — it’s our story.

“I think everyone will be very proud of being a part of that.”

Spirit Soldiers of WA Great Southern committee member Peter Grigg said the project would be the “hook” to bring visitors from across the country to Albany.

The committee are looking to enlist the help of local artists to create a contingent of 120 soldiers, with the aim of building 20-40 a year in the lead-up to 2026.

The Spirit Soldiers will be crafted from chicken wire.
Camera IconThe Spirit Soldiers will be crafted from chicken wire. Credit: Sarah Makse/ Albany Advertiser

“We don’t want everyone exactly the same because soldiers aren’t exactly the same,” Mr Grigg said.

“By having individual artists make them, we will have individual input of how they interpret what they are doing. It’s really taking it from a piece of art to having a connection, an emotional and a family connection.”

With a cost of about $2500 per soldier, some $300,000 in funding is needed to bring the Spirit Soldiers vision to life.

The committee is seeking funding to deliver the installation, including from the State Government, local businesses and those passionate about keeping the Anzac story alive.

The WA Liberals last month were the first party to announce support for the project, pledging $200,000 if elected in March.

The prototype stands at more than five feet tall with fine details.
Camera IconThe prototype stands at more than five feet tall with fine details. Credit: Sarah Makse/ Albany Advertiser

Albany RSL sub-branch president Helen Tasker said the prototype looked “fantastic” and the sub-branch supported the Spirit Soldiers concept.

“The Field of Light was so stunning and Albany had so many people from so many different countries come here just to look at that,” she said. “It was very moving and it was interesting to hear some of the conversations from the families that were there.”

Ms Tasker said the RSL would like to include a soldier in the rose garden at the entrance to its headquarters.

“I think it would be incredible, if they are going to be able to light them up at night they will be hauntingly beautiful,” she said.

“We think it is a lovely thing to do.”

To get involved visit, Spirit Soldiers of WA’s Great Southern on Facebook.

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