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

Ian Bushnell 9 July 2020 50
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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50 Responses to Former directors line up to oppose War Memorial redevelopment at parliamentary hearing
Antony Burnham Antony Burnham 1:27 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.

Elaine Staples Elaine Staples 3:28 am 13 Jul 20

A wonderful place....that will be even better.....and continue to bring people and money to Canberra...that can then be used for other causes, including the social ones many of the commentators are concerned about.

longlunch longlunch 1:22 am 12 Jul 20

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 Retro Capital Retro 8:51 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.

    Smackbang Smackbang 6:42 am 12 Jul 20

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

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 3:39 pm 12 Jul 20

    Says someone who has no opinions.

    David Stephens David Stephens 10:24 am 12 Jul 20

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

Frank Vee Frank Vee 6:03 pm 10 Jul 20

Use the money to provide mental health support for current and former soldiers suffering from PTSD.😡

    Maria Greene Maria Greene 7:24 pm 10 Jul 20

    Frank Valzano yeah but how would Brendan or pollies benefit?

    Karin Foxwell Karin Foxwell 12:38 pm 12 Jul 20

    Frank Valzano hear hear! As an Art Therapist working with veterans with PTSD I can only imagine how that sort of money could best be spent to improve their lives. There are myriad ways to reach this cohort and it’s not in a new monument. Tragic waste.

Tim Hollo for Canberra Tim Hollo for Canberra 8:46 am 10 Jul 20

Excellent. I doubt that anyone expects the Morrison government, which is allergic to good advice, to change its mind, but it’s excellent to have more voices added to these calls. We’re going to have to push hard to get this decision changed, save the beautiful ANZAC Hall, and get the funds allocated to veterans services and to the other cultural institutions.

Marion Hayes Marion Hayes 8:19 am 10 Jul 20

Well done! Someone is seeing the nonsense of spending a ridiculous amount of money on unnecessary “improvements”!

Joanne Jeanes Joanne Jeanes 7:55 am 10 Jul 20

It’s not needed

Mark Huppert Mark Huppert 7:26 am 10 Jul 20

That money should go to the National Museum of Australia, the National Gallery and the Film and Sound Archive.

Be Kate Be Kate 7:24 am 10 Jul 20

Build houses for the homeless. This waste is shameful.

bryansworld bryansworld 6:03 am 10 Jul 20

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

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 4:21 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?

Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 10:11 pm 09 Jul 20

Such short sighted NIMBYs in Canberra. Imagine any other city protesting against having a world class attraction built for them?? Only here.. bring in the trucks

    Tracey Crump Tracey Crump 10:50 pm 09 Jul 20

    Elroy Jones ...imagine...just like Sydney complaining about having their world class Powerhouse Museum gutted and replaced via a huge waste of money with a white elephant that no one wanted and that would divert huge sums of money from other more useful projects. Just like that. The protests worked too. Our War Memorial is excellent, but it's not our only culturally significant institution, and it doesn't need billions more spent on it.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 11:01 pm 09 Jul 20

    Tracey Crump the powerhouse protests were because of a perceived land grab. This is an upgrade. It’s not billions either TC. You NIMBYs are massive panic merchants

    Tracey Crump Tracey Crump 11:02 pm 09 Jul 20

    Only $500 bad. We don't need a world class institution..we need a place to respectfully remember service people who've died, and to tell their stories..we have that.

    Tracey Crump Tracey Crump 11:07 pm 09 Jul 20

    Elroy Jones not a panic merchant...very aware that we have many other cultural institutions that are being actively drained of funding. Or, another radical about we spend some of this money on living veterans that need better medical, social and psychological support?

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 11:11 pm 09 Jul 20

    Tracey Crump come on Tracey.. $500m - lets put that into perspective huh? What’s an appropriate amount to spend on a museum? If it was $2 million people would complain. It needs to happen.. the place is run down and could bring 10x in revenue within a few years. Let us develop some culture here pls.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 11:17 pm 09 Jul 20

    Colette Robinson I’m not sure if you attending the launch is grounds to stop the extension.. from what I have seen the new design enhances the original architecture.. the facade isn’t touched. Unsurprisingly it’s a lot of the same people who hate trams and apartments seem to hate museum refurbs

    Tracey Crump Tracey Crump 11:23 pm 09 Jul 20

    Elroy Jones more money spent doesn't necessarily equal more culture. The Memorial is already well funded, and not subject to an annual efficiency dividend which (together with actual budget cuts) applies to almost all our other cultural institutions. How are those other cultural institutions supposed to operate while being consistently de-funded? In any event, the War Memorial is not a theme park. They have an excellent building, and a very good collection. The purpose is as a place of reflection and education, and while it clearly does attract tourists, it's purpose is not as a tourist attraction per se.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 11:29 pm 09 Jul 20

    Tracey Crump more money spent (generally) equates to a better product. We can agree it isn’t a theme park. Agree they have an excellent building. Disagree it’s purpose is not a tourist attraction. I’d wager half the people who come to Canberra have the AWM on their mind. Anyway, I respect you opinion but feel it’s completely short sighted.. not for me but for our kids and others who want to see Canberra grow.

    Matthew Soall Matthew Soall 11:53 pm 09 Jul 20

    Elroy Jones The war memorial is not a tourist attratction. It is a solem place to pay tribute to those who sacrificed everything for us.

    Stephen Grealy Stephen Grealy 4:08 am 10 Jul 20

    Matthew Soall i agree and in my mind it represents a failure of humanity to resolve differences without killing and a failure to our own soldiers who died implementing these failures of our “leaders”....I think the present facility adequately allows for this reflection without taking up any tax dollars that could go to helping living soldiers ...

    Mal Briggs Mal Briggs 7:56 am 10 Jul 20

    Elroy Jones how do you propose this "attraction" brings in 10x revenue when it doesn't charge admission?

    It's a war memorial. The proposed extensions are just about turning it further into a museum of war materiel.

    Those are two different things.

    I'm fascinated by and all for a collection of vehicles, weapons, infrastructure and artefacts of war, but that is not memorial... And for too long we've wandered down the path of confusing the two.

    Perhaps we need a new institution to cover this area.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 8:16 am 10 Jul 20

    Mal Briggs you reckon all the money made at Floriade is spent on flowers Mal?

    Mal Briggs Mal Briggs 8:25 am 10 Jul 20

    Elroy Jones are you referring to money added to the wider ACT economy?

    We don't need to put more aeroplanes and celebrations of our weapons into the memorial for that.

    And, while it is still regarded as our top attraction, increasing spending in the ACT economy isn't part of its charter, or what the spending is supposed to be used for.

    They'd be better off increasing their publishing, which is in fact a money spinner for them.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 8:44 am 10 Jul 20

    Mal Briggs publishing? Mate - even Boomers must realise printing is a dying art. If you’ve got an ethical issue with war would you support this money being spent on another item which attracts tourism? Or is it more about the amount’

    Mal Briggs Mal Briggs 9:10 am 10 Jul 20

    Elroy Jones this money isn't available for another attraction.

    I have no problem having a museum of our war vehicles, weapons and techniques, but overrunning a memorial designed to help us fathom the level of human sacrifice so we are reluctant to want war, with displays sponsored by companies that profit from perpetuating war is abhorrent.

    Rebuild the AWM Annex in Mitchell so it is an appropriate attraction away from the solemnity of the AWM.

    Also, publishing is a lucrative part of the AWM. And history books in particular are very important. Not everything can be explained in a YouTube video.

    Also, if you were implying I'm a Boomer, you are wrong.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 9:15 am 10 Jul 20

    Mal Briggs Mitchell... really? Take people out to Mitchell? Do you host dinner parties in the toilet?

    Mal Briggs Mal Briggs 9:22 am 10 Jul 20

    Elroy Jones that's where it is. Doesn't mean it couldn't move.

    And, gross imagery, Mitchell isn't a toilet, and I'd not be hosting a dinner party amongst tanks.

Jon Billows Jon Billows 8:26 pm 09 Jul 20

Jesus Christ. Take it up with the government. It's not the war memorials fault they are better at lobbying for funding than our other institutions

    Stuart Herring Stuart Herring 10:46 pm 09 Jul 20

    ... Isn't that exactly what's happening?

    Tracey Crump Tracey Crump 10:54 pm 09 Jul 20

    Jon Billows so..should public money be spent ad infinitum on the War Memorial just because they seem to be good at lobbying, or should the government be playing a role in allocating that money more fairly across all our significant cultural institutions?

    Jon Billows Jon Billows 11:10 pm 09 Jul 20

    Tracey Crump it should be based on the number of people using the facility. The war memorial get infinitely more visitors than the other institutions

    Steph Jackman Steph Jackman 7:55 am 10 Jul 20

    Jon Billows Ummm... you understand what ‘giving evidence at a Parliamentary hearing’ means, right?? 🤦🏻‍♀️

    Jon Billows Jon Billows 8:25 am 10 Jul 20

    Steph Jackman In fairness I havent read this particular artifle as I am so sick of hearing about itm the amount of time which has been dedicated to this is so over the top it's not funny. There is so many much more money which is wasted by governments and councils, yet this is the one chosen to be protested over.

    Steph Jackman Steph Jackman 8:40 am 10 Jul 20

    But.. It’s in the headline.. and the article summary? And you’ve come to a very specific article to complain about ‘protesting’ (that’s not happening) and people not using the correct avenues to air their grievances.

    Allow me to explain a snippet of the inquiry process.

    - A parliamentary committee conducts an inquiry into a topic

    - they open for submissions from anyone with a vested interest

    - they read the submissions & invite certain people to appear before them to hear their opinion, and make a decision based on all the evidence provided.

    So it sounds to me like these people who have a more informed opinion than us (having actually worked there) are taking the correct, formal and reasonable avenues to dispute this.

    If you actually feel that passionately... instead of blatantly uninformed comments on Facebook, next time why don’t you also write to the committee? They’re open to public.

    Jon Billows Jon Billows 8:46 am 10 Jul 20

    Steph Jackman the committee is perfectly fine, it's certain areas of the public who have a moral objection to this funding and this funding only. Cherry picking and slamming the war memorial when they do nothing but amazing work which should be well funded.

    Steph Jackman Steph Jackman 8:52 am 10 Jul 20

    You seem to be backpedaling from your original comment here.

    Jon Billows Jon Billows 9:19 am 10 Jul 20

    Steph Jackman as I have mentioned I didn't read it. I saw more complaints about the war memorial funding and saw red. I can reflect on my own answers. I sure the committee will make some for of recommendation. The war memorial will still get some funding. I dislike those who say that the govt isn't supporting vets so the war memorial should be stripped of funding.

    It's like saying kids from rough backgrounds are being supported so we should stop funding school. Although they are related, thier funding is completely separate and should remain so

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 10:51 am 10 Jul 20

    Jon Billows they are taking it up with the government through the Public Works Committee.

Rowan Simpkin Rowan Simpkin 6:45 pm 09 Jul 20

Good move.

Teresa Layton Teresa Layton 6:38 pm 09 Jul 20

Great to hear. Disgusting waste of money particularly during these times. A wonderful place already.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 10:10 pm 09 Jul 20

    Teresa Layton how much do you reckon the Guggenheim or the Louvre cost?

    Kate Carey Kate Carey 7:20 am 10 Jul 20

    Elroy Jones how do you consider the comparison relevant?

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