Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Get Carta: Magna Carta Place

The Magna Carta monument in Canberra was unveiled in 2001. It celebrates both the Centenary of Federation and Australia's special relationship with Great Britain. The funds for the project were raised by the Magna Carta Committee, a part of the Australia-Britain Society. It is heartening to see the countries supporting and respecting each other in relation to such an important issue as government and democracy.

The materials used apparently convey a sense of timelessness - bronze, bluestone, granite and ironbark. The design by architect Alastair Falconer was inspired by history, myth and geology. It consists of a three-tiered pavilion with a hill at the back referencing ancient burial mounds. It is designed as though the hill is slashed open and the pavilion is revealed at the heart.

The mound is shored up with a wall along which runs a time line through a series of murals (by Silvia Velez and Chris Meadham) tracing the events that led to the emergence of the Magna Carta in England and its relevance to Australian law and civil rights.

The time line then spirals through the centre of the monument with tenets of the Magna Carta imprinted on it, such as Justice; Equality; Freedom; Rule of Law and Trial by Jury - all noble sentiments and fundamental to the British (and, hence, Australian) justice and legal system.

A time capsule is buried in the middle to be opened in 2101. Meanwhile, back in the present (and past), the pavilion is crowned with a golden ring incised with the Latin wording of Chapter 29 of the Magna Carta (one of the four remaining copies of the 1297 issue of the Magna Carta is displayed at Parliament House). The English translation is found on a rubbing plaque in the pavilion:

"No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemnation, but by lawful judgement of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right"

These legal terms are stirring and impressive, and make me feel proud to be a British (and New Zealand) citizen.

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