18 June 2021

War Memorial, NCA defend consultations on expansion plans

| Ian Bushnell
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Redeveloped War Memorial

An artist’s impression of what the redeveloped War Memorial will look like. Image: AWM.

The Australian War Memorial has defended the consultation process for its controversial $500 million expansion, saying it went far beyond just engaging with the Canberra community and that the project had the support of the Australian people.

The Memorial has come under intense fire over its plans, including the demolition of the award-winning Anzac Hall to make more space for telling the stories of contemporary conflicts and missions and how it has dealt with the community amid claims over a lack of proper process.

Each step of the approvals process has provoked outrage from opponents, culminating in the National Capital Authority approval of Early Works that will tear down Anzac Hall and, in effect, clear the way for the rest of the project.

Only three of the 600 submissions to the NCA supported the project, a statistic that opponents said reflected the overwhelming community opposition to the project.

But AWM Director Matt Anderson said the Memorial had conducted a national consultation program, as well as the local processes connected to three major approval hurdles.

“We have reached more than half-a-million Australians in person, through our website and social media, surveys, community forums, focus groups, public notices and media coverage,” he said.

“A total of 385 consultation activities have taken place, from meetings with community groups to nationwide surveys and a national roadshow to every state and territory. We have listened, and more than 50 changes have been made to the project.”

Mr Anderson said one of the most important surveys took place in July 2020 when visitors to the Memorial were provided with information on the project and asked if they supported it, eliciting an overwhelmingly positive response.

“More than 660 people answered this question,” he said.

“Remembering they had just visited existing galleries on Afghanistan and peacekeeping, 85 per cent of these visitors said ‘yes’ the Memorial needs to do more to tell modern service stories and the plans we proposed were appropriate. Only 6 per cent were opposed.”

AWM Director Matt Anderson

AWM Director Matt Anderson: consultation reached half a million Australians. Photo: Michael Masters.

Mr Anderson said the expansion of the Memorial’s galleries to recognise recent conflicts and operations would allow it to tell the untold stories of Australia’s servicemen and servicewomen.

“Through this once-in-a-generation project, veterans who served, and those still serving, will soon be able to visit the Memorial to share stories of their service and sacrifice with loved ones and receive the recognition they so richly deserve,” he said.

The NCA has also responded to criticism of its role, with Chief Executive Sally Barnes telling the Senate that it wasn’t NCA’s role to question the decision of the Parliament and the assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity and Conservation Act.

“In making its decision, the Board noted that the purpose, cost and extent of the works had been considered extensively and supported by Australia’s democratically elected representatives through consideration by the Public Works Committee and a subsequent motion to the Australian Parliament,” she said.

“The Board of the NCA respects the decision of Parliament.”

Ms Barnes said many matters raised in submissions had been considered and addressed through this parliamentary process, and the Works Approval application process did not provide a mechanism to revisit this decision.

She said a full assessment of the proposed development was undertaken under the EPBC Act and Environment Minister Sussan Ley had given her approval on 10 December 2020 to proceed with the overall proposition.

“The Board did not disagree with this assessment and considered other impacts associated with the Early Works Application,” she said.

The NCA says that it continues to serve the Australian public under the statutory guidelines it upholds.

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Ian Lindgren5:37 pm 19 Jun 21

The AWM Redevelopment Project will go ahead and the two high level reasons that it will are that it is based on need, and that need is debated in forums where non emotive in scope discussion are held true, and where emotive language on topics that are out of scope are not considered.. Anyone debating this in a serious manner owes it to the Australian people to be honest, follow no hidden agenda and use no emotion in their discussions.

The NCA was asked to consider whether or not the early works was compliant with the National Capital Plan; out of scope was “The need, scope, cost, purpose and value for money of proposed works are matters that have been addressed by the Australian Parliament’s Public Works Committee and considered by elected representatives from across Australia.”

The majority of the 600 odd submission focused on what was out of scope so they were set aside. Rightly so. That is democracy. They were raised before at the Parliamentary Works Committee where they were in scope and where members off all parties and people of all opinions could speak.

I based my opinion on the AWM Redevelopment Project based on a survey that was out of scope for the NCA’s recent consideration. That survey can be found here:


There you will find verified individual responses from across the country.

That is how you approach debate on national heritage based issues like this. Facts, need, non emotive discussion that is in scope and respect all others’ opinions.

Due process has been followed. In scope debate considered. Out of scope debate set aside. The AWM Redevelopment Project will proceed and $50m will be invested into the ACT each year for ten years.

Ian Lindgren7:09 pm 19 Jun 21

See Survey 76

Ian Lindgren,
Of course you are correct. But that won’t stop people continuing their whinging that doesn’t actually address any relevant issues, just that they “don’t like it”.

David Stephens8:26 am 19 Jun 21

In the Heritage Guardians submission to the recent NCA consultation process, we said this about how the Memorial consults: “Nor does the submission get into the masses of spurious ‘survey’ material the Memorial has used since 2018 to justify its claims of wide support for the project. This material has been characterised by leading questions, biased samples, low response rates, and misleading spruiking by public officials and contractors who should know better. The words ‘mendacious’ and ‘meretricious’ are appropriate for much of this ‘evidence’.”
Where we did get into one of the Memorial’s dodgy exercises, the one reported in February 2020 in its final preliminary documentation under the EPBC process, we said this in our submission:
“The Memorial’s consultations about the redevelopment have been selective and its reporting of them misleading. It lumps together results from four different consultation formats, despite the varying quality of the results from each format.

“The Memorial also glosses over the fact that 70 per cent of its consultation events were in RSL or similar ex-service clubs or at the Memorial or the Shrine in Melbourne.

“The Memorial’s consultation results are greatly at odds with public opinion gathered by the opponents of the redevelopment.

“The Memorial’s so-called ‘online survey’ is actually an exercise of seeking feedback to leading questions about the redevelopment, presented to people who often had only sketchy knowledge of the Memorial’s role and the plans for its future.

The Memorial’s presentations to the public about the redevelopment gave a misleading picture of the plans.”

David Stephens

Stephen Saunders7:34 am 19 Jun 21

Mr Anderson, it is laughable to quote a skewed “survey” of punters already visiting AWM. Ms Barnes, as ever, a puppet. Gas-lighting us with “processes” and “plans”.

Simple reality, most Canberrans and Australians hate this. You two are no friends to democracy.

And yet you can provide no evidence of your claims of what most Australians think.

In fact the only true assessment of what Australians think happened at the last election where the government went to the polls with this redevelopment as part of their platform and were elected.

It seems you are the one who wants to override democracy because other people don’t agree with you.

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