The Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation Inc. (AWAMO), a registered not-for profit Incorporation is made up of community members from diverse backgrounds that have the likeminded aim to recognize the deeds and sacrifices of all animal species, who have given their lives and their loyalty, serving alongside their human comrades. AWAMO has four main core activities.
- The establishment of memorials.
- Fiscal and material sponsorship to veteran Service dogs.
- Sponsorship to other animal projects assisting veterans or animals.
AWAMO was initially set up to establish recognition for animals that had died in conflicts- Over 9 million alone in WWI. We continue to make people aware of their deeds and sacrifices by placing memorials at important sites, thus far 40 Australian and International monuments have been established.
A few examples are: AWAMO opened Australia’s Official war animal memorial in Pozieres, France. This is AWAMO’s largest venture so far – the $250,000 bronze statues not only honour Australian war animals but animals from all Nations. All funds were raised by AWAMO with NO government funding. The event was attended by ADF representatives, members of the British Army, Canadian, India, French and NZ defence forces. It was opened by Dr Brendan Nelson of the AWM, Dr Harry Cooper TV Veterinarian and Mayor of Pozieres.
The establishment of a WWII War Animal Memorial in Kokoda PNG. Situated at the Army Museum, at Six Rivers. AWAMO provided a bronze plaque commemorating the 5,000 Mules and donkeys that served as pack animals along with 20,000 messenger pigeons used in this region during WWII.AWAMO also provided poster information and scale model horse head for the local ADF Museum.
AWAMO established a Veterinary Corps memorial this is the first and only memorial for the people who saved the lives of tens of thousands of animals during various conflicts. This Corps was disbanded in 1946. The second Veterinary Corps memorial was established by AWAMO on the Western Front, France. Opened by Chief of Defence Staff & Defence Minister.
After several years of consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Military Attaché in Vietnam AWAMO provided an honour board commemorating the 11 tracker dogs which did not return home after the Vietnam War. The Tracker Dog Memorial is situated at the Consulate Generals Office Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The first memorial allowed in that country in 50 years. AWAMO has provided several RSLs within Australia with bronze duplicate plaques commemorating the dogs left behind.
The Toowoomba war horse rose garden, New Town Park Heritage State Rose Garden. Opened by Mayor Toowoomba. AWAMO has partnered with Treloar Roses to rename the ‘Charles De Gaulle’ rose to that of the ‘War Animal Rose’ – this beautiful purple rose in partnership with AWAMO bronze horse memorial at Toowoomba resulted in the Heritage Garden being awarded first place in the International Heritage memorial awards-Copenhagen 2017.
This year 2020 the establishment and funded the official NATO War Animal memorial in Belgium, which honour all the animals that have served in European and NATO forces from WWII to present day.
AWAMO designed and established the QPS Service animal memorial situated at the QPS Academy Chapel, to honour all the horses and dogs that have served the Queensland Police Service over the past 150 year. This was opened by Minister of Police Hon Jack Dempsey and QPS Commissioner of Police Ian Stewart. A duplicate bronze plaque was donated by AWAMO and situated at Police Headquarters Museum, Brisbane. This enable better public access/viewing than the Academy.
The first ever memorial for the Indigenous Light Horsemen of WW1 was designed and established by AWAMO working alongside the Mayor of Logan, the Department of Veterans Affairs and local Indigenous Elders. For its efforts AWAMO was nominated for the National Reconciliation Award. This Australia’s first Indigenous Light Horse memorial was opened by Indigenous Senator Leanne Lindgren.
Perhaps one of the most rewarding achievements to date for AWAMO is the establishment of the Veterans Canine assistance program, Funded solely by AWAMO. In brief there remain around 20 service dogs that have deployed multiple times to Afghanistan and retired. These are veterans but do not get recognized as such and receive no fiscal assistance once retired from the government. The defence force does not have a policy to assist them, and its duty-of-care to our four-legged diggers ends when their service ends, likewise there is no aid from the Department of Veterans Affairs to retired service dogs. Because of the typical age of MWD retirement, the people who take on responsibility for our veteran MWDs are even unable to take out pet insurance to help with the costs of their veterinary care. Thus
AWAMO has a program in place to financially help and support these veteran Aussie MWDs. It is a limited project as alas these dogs will all die of old age within the next few years. Unfortunately, many of the significant health costs come at the end of a dog’s life. This can be a significant impost on those that have given our MWDs their retirement home. Our four-legged soldiers have given much. 11 have given the ultimate sacrifice, killed in Afghanistan protecting our troops. We owe them much, at least to make their last few years of life comfortable and given medical treatment when needed. AWAMO continues to help with food and other aid to veteran dogs who’s handlers fall on hard times.
One of the many AWAMO activities is to support other animal charity with advice, fiscal aid, materiel products and other resources. These charities range from domestic run charities to international animal protection charities.
For over ten years, AWAMO has been a sponsor of Qld Riding for disabled for many years. Riding with RDA gives a wonderful opportunity to interact with horses and has been shown to lower stress levels and aid in therapeutic activities. Some of the benefits of horse riding include improved core strength, improving balance and improved coordination for veterans with physical disabilities. These latter activities have been used to assist members of the ADF and Emergency Services, who have sustained lower body injuries or amputees. AWAMO purchased from the USA -Australia’s first amputee saddle. Riding for the Disabled approached AWAMO to assist returned servicemen and women suffering from PTSD. They were able to use funds donated by AWAMO to cover the cost for several ADF personnel to qualify as riding instructors via TAFE. AWAMO proudly supports Mates4Mates Equine program, funding via donations and sale of AWAMO products. Participants in the Equine Therapy Program interact and engage with horses through an educational and emotional experience, in a safe and calm environment, learning basic natural horsemanship while developing a trusting relationship.
Likewise, for the last decade AWAMO has provided funds for PTSD dogs to various registered training companies including Young Diggers and Delta Dogs. In conjunction with 7 Brigade Army Welfare and Rehabilitation Centre, Brisbane, AWAMO have made several donations to assist fiscal sponsorship of Service dogs for PTSD veterans. A welfare assistance dog more a companion for an individual or group of people in the work force. These types of dogs can be seen doing the rounds of a hospital or left with a person at work who is having an emotional event that day such as a death in the family, etc. AWAMO has supplied a number of Assistance Dogs to help moral in high stressful environments to veterans via the Redlands RSL, Queensland. They can be trained to work with people who use wheelchairs, have balance issues, have various types of autism, need seizure alert or response, and need to be alerted to other medical issues like low blood sugar. They can help by retrieving objects that are out of their person’s reach, opening and closing doors, turning light switches off and on, barking to indicate that help is needed, finding another person and leading the person to the handler, assisting ambulatory persons to walk by providing balance and counterbalance and many other individual tasks as needed by a person with a disability.
Internationally AWAMO provide funds and equipment to Wildlife programmes- such as prevention of poaching projects. Several of these are using dogs to protect wildlife via anti-poaching duties, whilst another uses horses – mounted Wildlife Ranger patrols. Support can be via funds to train tracker dogs or Rangers equine mounts or as in 2021 the supply of boots and hundreds of socks to Rangers in India and Africa. AWAMO also provides funds and support to local Australian & New Zealand projects to protect wildlife.
Education is a vital part of our philosophy. As animals have no voice of their own our aim is to ensure that the deeds of war animals do not get lost and to educate young Australians that not only two but also four legged diggers served this Nation. AWAMO donates to war animal re-enactor groups that help educate Australians on the role animals played in war. Likewise, we donate to both Australian and international Defence Forces educational material to servicemen to ensure animals remain in regimental history. AWAMO President a published author has donated several books to Vision Australia, where they have been converted to brail and audio. In 2019 likewise, these and another book New Zealand war animals was donated and converted for use with the Blind Foundation of New Zealand and Scotland. AWAMO calculate that its book donations to Schools, libraries, Children’s Hospitals, The Starlight Foundation and Ronald MacDonald House Australia & NZ exceed $30,000. AWAMO publishes a Children’s book on Indigenous Light Horsemen in WWI, it has received universal praise from the DVA and Indigenous Elders and forwarded for mention in the reconciliation awards. Copies of the book have been donated to remote and Indigenous schools across Australia.