National Memorial to Conscientious Objectors unveiled

After a decade of preparations, the National Memorial to Conscientious Objectors was unveiled in Dunedin on the 28th of October. 
Stairway to the memorial
The site, at the junction of George and Albany Street on a small reserve, was provided by the Dunedin City Council. A Peace Garden dedicated to Archibald Baxter and designed by Baxter Design of Queenstown provides a setting of textured concrete walls and native plantings in which the monumental abstract sculpture is set. 

Shane Woolridge’s sculpture, entitled We Will Bend but not be Broken, is brutal and visceral, reflecting a practice of what would now be considered state-sanctioned torture, a stark representation of Field Punishment No. 1 which Baxter endured on the front lines.  

The memorial is dedicated to all of Aotearoa New Zealand’s conscientious objectors and the peace garden in which it is set is dedicated particularly to Archibald Baxter. Baxter was a Dunedin farmer, husband, father, socialist, a gentle man, and sometime poet. His relentless fortitude demonstrated that despite being subjected to this most inhuman treatment by his own countrymen he did not break in his resolve.  

"I have suffered to the limit of my endurance, but I will never in my sane senses surrender to the evil power that has fixed its roots like a cancer on the world." 

The memorial honours all those who stood by their convictions and is a compliment to the many memorials that commemorate those who went to war.  

Professor Kevin Clements from the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, and the Chair of the Archibald Baxter Memorial Trust opened the proceedings. Upoko Edward Ellison of Ōtākou rūnaka, Katherine Baxter (Archibald Baxter’s granddaughter), and Dunedin City Mayor Aaron Hawkins all spoke. The memorial was officially opened by Hon Grant Robertson.  

From the platform where the sculpture is positioned, there is a view up Albany Street and across the water to the soldiers’ memorial on the highest peak of the peninsular, another reminder of what must never be forgotten.

Sarah Gallagher

More information:

Archibald Baxter Memorial Trust   
Watch the video of opening speeches here.
Heritage Matters podcast including speeches