9 July 2020

Former directors line up to oppose War Memorial redevelopment at parliamentary hearing

| Ian Bushnell
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Australian War Memorial

More than 80 per cent of the 70 submissions to the Public Works Committee are against the AWM redevelopment. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A troop of former Australian War Memorial officials opposed to its controversial $500 million redevelopment will line up before a federal parliamentary committee next week.

The Public Works Committee teleconference hearing next Tuesday comes as the Memorial continues to plan for its proposed new galleries despite the project still having to negotiate the approvals process and opposition from a plethora of notable Australians, including former AWM officials.

More than 80 per cent of the 70 submissions to the PWC are against the redevelopment, and witnesses next week include two former memorial directors, Brendon Kelson and Major-General Steve Gower.

Also giving evidence will be Professor Peter Stanley, a former head of the Historical Research Section and Principal Historian at the Memorial, and former senior AWM officer Stewart Mitchell.

The proposed demolition of the award-winning Anzac Hall is a key part of the project, and the Australian Institute of Architects, prominent Canberra architect Roger Pegrum and architect Geoff Ashley, who contributed to the AWM Heritage Management Plan 2011, will detail their opposition to the destruction of the building.

Other witnesses are Dr David Stephens for the Heritage Guardians, and Dr Sue Wareham and Dr Margie Beavis for the Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia).

Meanwhile, the Memorial last month relocated a Bushmaster armoured vehicle, an LAV-25 (a middle-sized armoured vehicle), and a Centurion Battle Tank from their sites near Anzac Hall sparking concerns that it was pressing ahead with its redevelopment preparations despite the approvals process yet to run its course.

Anzac Hall

The award-winning Anzac Hall will be demolished. Photo: Australian Institute of Architects.

The Memorial said the vehicles were replacing rusting guns on plinths to the south of Anzac Hall that needed to be returned to storage.

But an email dated 3 July from Memorial director Matt Anderson providing an update on the project shows it is pushing ahead with its plans.

”We are currently planning consultation for our new galleries and the displays in those proposed spaces,” he told recipients.

”The consultation will start in late 2020. We look forward to working with you to deliver galleries that tell the stories of a new generation of Australian men and women who have served our nation in recent conflicts, peacekeeping, and humanitarian operations.”

The update also announced the opening of a second consultation phase, focused on the environmental and heritage impacts of the project, that will close at the end of the month on 31 July.

”I invite you to review our EPBC Preliminary Documentation Submission, share this with your colleagues and/or members, and consider providing feedback including the social heritage value of the proposed Development. This aspect is specifically discussed in the submission section 3 – Need for the Project and section 7.9 – Social Heritage Values.

”All feedback received will be included in the final documentation we shall submit to the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment for assessment.”

The Heritage Guardians say the Memorial has given the impression that the project is a fait accompli, even though heritage and PWC approvals are still pending. In its submission to the PWC, the Heritage Guardians describe the AWM approach as showing ”disrespect for both the heritage approval process – a matter for government, applying the EPBC Act – and the PWC process – a parliamentary process required by law”.

The Memorial will also give evidence at the hearing, which commences at 11:00 am on 14 July. To watch the hearings, visit Parliament House Live.

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Antony Burnham1:27 pm 13 Jul 20

ANZAC Hall is already impressive, attractive and functional. I’ve visited multiple times with different groups of visitors and never come away with the feeling it needed to be bigger. It’s unclear why such a recent building has to be replaced and I would prefer to see the $500M used to provide operational costs for all of Canberra’s museums, galleries etc. (including the AWM), or on improved support for retired service men and women, than to destroy a fine building that is still completely fit for purpose. Turning the memorial into a building site isn’t my idea of solemn remembrance.

I’m not particularly concerned with the $500M spend for this. What annoys me is that it involves demolishing the spectacular and award winning ANZAC Hall. A beautiful, multi million dollar, fully functional building that is only 17 years old is going to be demolished?

From what I hear apparently their were 5 designs on the table, 4 of which did not involve the destruction of ANZAC Hall, but Brendon Nelson vetoed those 4.

Capital Retro8:51 pm 11 Jul 20

Why can’t the former directors just enjoy their generous pensions and stay out of it?

What they think now is simply irrelevant so lets just accept it and move on.

What a coincidence – your opinion is also irrelevant, and yet here you are offering it.

David Stephens10:24 am 12 Jul 20

But if your head is in the sand you might come a nasty gutser. Moving on has its drawbacks.

Capital Retro3:39 pm 12 Jul 20

Says someone who has no opinions.

Jon, better at lobbying? You do know who the last Director of the War Memorial was?!

Stephen Saunders4:21 am 10 Jul 20

The people of Canberra didn’t want that vile ASIO building either. It made not the slightest difference. Anyone for democracy sausage?

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