23 March 2021

Anzac Hall, dozens of trees to go in War Memorial redevelopment's 'early works'

| Ian Bushnell
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Artist's impression of the redeveloped Australian War Memorial.

An artist’s impression of the redeveloped Australian War Memorial, showing the new Southern Entrance and Parade Ground. Image: Australian War Memorial.

The Australian War Memorial has been accused of trying to sneak through fundamental elements of its controversial $500 million redevelopment by labelling them as ‘early works’.

It has submitted a works application prepared by Knight Frank to the National Capital Authority (NCA) that includes the demolition of the award-winning Anzac Hall, the ripping up of the parade ground and the clearing of dozens of trees.

Heritage Guardians spokesperson Dr David Stephens said the process reeks of subterfuge and the War Memorial is encouraging the NCA to indulge in ‘salami slicing’, approving ‘early works’ of such importance that it will be impossible for the NCA not to approve the whole project when the time comes.

“If you can’t knock over Anzac Hall the whole project falls in a heap,” said Dr Stephens.

He said the NCA should consider all elements of the project together, not separately.

“It’s almost certain the project will be agreed to, but at least make a pretence of treating the project seriously and not trying to rush it through in this secretive way.”

Plan of proposed early works in the Australian War memorial redevelopment.

Proposed early works in the Australian War Memorial redevelopment. Image: Knight Frank.

Dr Stephens said the War Memorial had treated each stage of the approvals process as window dressing.

“There’s still an air of arrogance and inevitability coming from the Memorial,” he said.

“The Memorial has always relied on the Anzac cloak to shield it from the sort of accountability other public institutions are used to.”

Dr Stephens said public notice of proposals had been scant in detail, but people wanting to know more were then swamped with information.

“The Memorial is very good at every approval stage producing a mountain of documents inadequately indexed and hellishly difficult for the average person to find their way through,” he said.

The new works application – flagged previously to Heritage Guardians as just including hoardings, service relocations and excavation – details the removal of at least 65 trees, some mature eucalypts such as those framing the Memorial entrance; the demolition of Anzac Hall and the link to the main building; and the excavation of the Parade Ground to reconfigure the Southern Entrance, which will have street level entrances.

The stonework of the Main Entry stair and plinths, and the heritage retaining wall will be removed and stored for reinstatement.

Before and after maps of Southern Entrance at Australian War Memorial.

Before and after – how the Southern Entrance will change at the Australian War Memorial. Image: Knight Frank.

There will also be a new roundabout to Poppy’s Cafe carpark, as well as works associated with the Bean Building extension.

Calling the tree removal wanton vandalism, Dr Stephens said there were also a number of trees assessed in 2019 and it is unclear how many of these might also be under threat.

He said the Southern Entrance excavation is massive and would fundamentally change the look of the Memorial, and could not possibly be considered an ‘early work’.

The Memorial argues the redesigned Southern Entrance will make the institution more accessible for the elderly and people with a disability.

The Parliamentary Works Committee and the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act process, have ticked off the redevelopment, which will expand the Memorial’s size and enable it to tell the stories of more contemporary military and peacekeeping missions.

The proposed new two-storey Anzac Hall and glazed link will also allow it to display more military hardware such as planes, helicopters and armoured vehicles.

But the project has spurred opposition from former Memorial directors and staff, the Australian Institute of Architects, and a broad range of prominent Australians concerned at the cost, the loss of Anzac Hall, and the Memorial’s direction.

Most of the submissions to the parliamentary inquiry were against the proposal.

Comment on this application can be made until 30 April.

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cognitive1dissonance9:31 am 24 Mar 21

I must admit I love those who speak on our behalf – who’s behalf? I am a veteran of over 30 years, still serving, a very proud ANZAC and have completed 8 tours around the planet; totalling to over 5 years in a combat zone.

My recommendation for all the “do-gooders'” is how about you listen to those who this memorial is meant to honour…. and I also include the ones that have made the ultimate sacrifice. We are simple people who do or did things that either others would not do, or others could not do…. how about we pay tribute in a befitting manner.

@liberalsocialist – I am not sure where you work mate, but in my neck of the woods, we look forward to an updated memorial that also includes contemporary operations – remember the longest war Australia has ever been involved in has just come to and end; they deserve a large seat at the table. Please do not speak on our behalf.

As for other front line workers – they too require recognition but this is a “War” memorial; make others, like the Police Memorial on the lake, for them – they deserve it as well.

@ Stewart Mitchell and the Heritage Guardians – please come and stand by us at the front line, we are more than happy to have you by our side and earn the right to be memorialised… even at the expense of a few of trees.

David Stephens11:07 am 24 Mar 21

Would it not be a bigger tribute to recent service if the Memorial made some difficult decisions about which areas of its current space could be turned over to recognition of recent service? Rather than asking for yet more space. The money earmarked for this project, all $500m of it, could be put instead towards direct benefits to veterans and their families. Note the recent support in Parliament for Royal Commission into veterans suicide. Now there’s a worthy cause.

cognitive1dissonance1:05 pm 24 Mar 21

Thanks for the Reply @David Stephens. I offer the following.

Would we really stand by and watch them “replace” current exhibitions/information displays – history is soon forgotten at the wrath of contemporary ideas. We offend those names on the Wall of Remembrance.

Royal Commission? Now there is a potential waste of money that could be better spent on Veteran Services – and as you put it – “Now there is a worthy cause”.

While we remain on Veteran Services – how about we optimise the over 5500 ESO’s that currently compete against each other for very finite resources for the purpose of “helping” our service personnel – serving and retired. Now there is a HUGE saving, both fiscally and mentally, to be made. All ESO’s should be in the business of doing themselves out of a job – ie: we have solved veteran support issues and they are no longer needed. Interesting thought and objective.

Stewart Mitchell1:17 pm 23 Mar 21

I made the following comment on another media story recently and believe its worth saying it again. Some commentators will think not but here goes:
“It’s simply gut-wrenching to think of the loss of these magnificent trees and the impact this will have on the Memorial landscape. But this will only be the start. Many readers will know that colossal changes to the Memorial have been approved by Minister Sussan Ley on the advice of her Department despite significant concern about heritage impact – including from the Government’s own Australian Heritage Council. Sadly, it is clear that the ‘mitigating conditions’ attached to Ley’s approval will not reduce this impact – the development WILL have ‘large scale, high intensity and permanent impact’ – this tragic tree loss will be the first visible example of this.

And now the NCA is looking at approving so called ‘early works’ – massive tree destruction, demolishing Anzac Hall and extensive excavation of the Parade Ground and site. The term ‘early works’ doesn’t seem to do justice to the Armageddon that is about to occur. It is extraordinary that the NCA could consider it as such.

I urge everyone who cares about all this to look at the material on the NCA site and make a strong comment https://www.nca.gov.au/consultation/block-3-section-39-campbell-australian-war-memorial.

The NCA have said ‘The approval by Minister Ley satisfies the heritage conditions of the Plan and will guide the NCA’s assessment of this matter’. I fear they may have accepted a deferential role to the Federal Government and will assist this development to go ahead – or will they stand up and make an independent assessment for the good of the National Capital, and this National Heritage Listing they also have responsibility for.

Stewart Mitchel
Former Head of Buildings and Services at the AWM

Ian Lindgren7:31 pm 22 Mar 21

This is sensationalist and inaccurate; the good old heritage guardians, AKA, Brendon Kelson, former Director, Australian War Memorial, Dr Charlotte Palmer, committee member, Medical Association for Prevention of War (ACT Branch), Professor Peter Stanley, Dr David Stephens, Editor, Honest History website, and Dr Sue Wareham OAM start with taking a shot at the AWM focused on trees, but then segue into the sky is falling. Not content with trying to convince the PWC that the redevelopment was wrong under their own names, half of them have another crack as the Heritage Guardians. The Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Veterans’ Association survey found that a sample survey indicated greater than 75% of Australians agree or strongly agree with the AWM Redevelopment project. Like the others below; I can’t wait to see the redeveloped AWM. Time to get over it guys.

Sounds like a really ‘independent’ survey that your quoting there…..

David Stephens10:17 am 23 Mar 21

Analysis on the Honest History website honesthistory.net.au shows the dodginess of AWM ‘surveys’ in support of the project: leading questions; rash assumptions; biased samples. On the other hand, the Public Works Committee inquiry on this project received by far the most submissions the PWC had received on any inquiry since it began work in 1913 and three-quarters of the submissions were against the project. When the AWM called for submissions on the heritage aspects of the proposal, 58 per cent (by the AWM’s own count) of 167 submissions were against the project.

liberalsocialist7:09 pm 23 Mar 21

What utter tripe. Your ‘independent’ survey is clearly wrong.

I am a serving member, have been for nearly 20 years. I have been shot at, have PTSD, injured on operations, have conducted peace keeping, war-like, UN, stability and HA/DR operations.

No one at my very large Canberra based workplace seems to agree with this waste of money. It’s a memorial, not a museum.

We would all like you to STOP sensationalising ADF service to the nation. We’re not the US. We get paid, we volunteer, we can leave if we want to. We love the job, it’s awesome for us. We don’t need the politicians sit back and provide bleeding-heart diatribe on how we should be recognised. I get recognised each pay Thursday. My service is recognised by medals. That, actually, is far more recognition than others get. Last Ambulance officer you heard with medals on the chest, or with a memorial – let alone a national museum – be dedicated to him/ her?

75%? Utter BS. You probably surveyed the RSL filled with bitter ex-personnel. No current members attend as it all seems to be about pokies and how the nation did them an injustice. Fair – a lot were conscripted. But everyone since Vietnam has volunteered. Just like your local Ambo or Firey.

The self appointed Guardians of the Galaxy or the Heritage or whatever they call themselves this month are at it again.

Great news. Can’t wait to visit with my kids. The elitist pompous NIMBYs have made plenty of noise in recent months and years. It will be good to see them get their comeuppance when this goes ahead.

It’s happening. Get over it.
All this “Heritage guardians” busybody group is going to do is cause the wastage of even more of your tax dollars.

Peter Curtis3:54 pm 23 Mar 21

$500 million sounds like a waste to me

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