The following piece was published 26 August 2013, SBS World News Australia Radio.
By Ildi Amon
The Australian War Memorial in Canberra has launched a new exhibition focusing on Australians in the Afghan war.
By the end of next year, Australian troops are due to be withdrawn from Afghanistan, along with those of other members of the US-led coalition fighting Taliban militants.
But with the war still underway, the Australian War Memorial in Canberra has launched a new exhibition that showcases the experiences of thousands of Australian military personnel who have served in it.
Ildi Amon reports.
In response to the September 11 attacks, Australia joined the United States and other allies in sending troops to Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda militants who were using it as a base.
The new exhibition called Afghanistan: The Australian Story aims to give visitors a sense of what has become the country's longest overseas military operation through interviews, images and film footage.
The Australian War Memorial says it will show the broad military and associated civilian involvement.
This includes counter-insurgency activities through to reconstructing hospitals, schools and roads as well as mentoring Afghanistan's fledgling army.
Chief of the Australian Defence Force, General David Hurley, says the exhibition gives the general public a behind-the-scenes look.
"It captures all aspects of Australia's Afghanistan campaign: the equipment, the evolution of our tasks, the humour, the bitterness and sadness and most importantly, our people and our families."
This is the first time the War Memorial has dedicated an exhibition to an ongoing conflict.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says it's clear that such an exhibition is required now.
"Not in a decade's time, not in 20 years' time as we wait for official histories to be written but to tell the story now. Because it is a story worth telling. It is really a story worth telling."
The exhibition opening was also used to commemorate Australian lives lost in Afghanistan.
In a moving tribute, Lieutenant-General David Morrison read the names of all 40 Australian soldiers killed in the war since in began in 2002.
"...Trooper David Pearce, 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment, 8th of October 2007. Sergeant Matthew Locke, Medal for Gallentry, Special Air Service Regiment, 25th October 2007. Private Luke Worsley 4th Battalion, Commando, the Royal Australian Regiment, 23rd of November 2007..."
Prime Minister Rudd says the exhibition will honour all of the nearly 30,000 Australians who have served -- or are serving -- in Afghanistan.
And he says this exhibition will ensure their stories are preserved as part of Australia's national story.
"Whether you are religious or not this has become for many Australians a holy place. It's in many respects a cathedral of our nation's memory. This exhibition preserves part of our national memory."
Also attending the opening, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he agreed with the sentiments of the Prime Minister.
And Mr Abbott also paid tribute to the Australian role in the war.
"This is the war my generation thought we would never be called upon to fight. This is the war we thought would never happen. Conflict it seems is part of the human condition and we must always be ready for it. We don't know the outcome yet of our war in Afghanistan but we do know that every day has been better because of our soldiers' presence and every day will be better because they were there, because we were there."
Australian troops have served alongside allies from almost 50 other countries in Afghanistan, which the Defence Force Chief described as the largest ever alliance put together to fight a war.
General David Hurley says after their mission ends, he hopes the new exhibition will help the Australian public to better understand the conditions under which they fought - and their legacy.
"To the men and women who have served in Afghanistan and the Middle East you have done this country proud. On your behalf, it is a great honour, to declare the exhibition Afghanistan: the Australian Story, open."