Menadue, John: By accepting funding from weapons suppliers the Australian War Memorial demeans Australia’s war dead

John Menadue

By accepting funding from weapons suppliers the Australian War Memorial demeans Australia’s war dead‘, Pearls and Irritations, 30 June 2017

John Menadue, former senior public servant and businessman, wrote to Brendan Nelson, Director of the War Memorial, to ask why the Memorial accepts funding from arms manufacturers. The Director responded: ‘We regard it as entirely appropriate that defence contractors support the Memorial in its mission’.

Menadue’s post includes details of the work of arms manufacturer donors to the Memorial. His post concludes:

With their global power and influence the arms manufacturers are winning in their struggle to keep the US and its allies like Australia continually at war. That is not what the founders of the AWM intended.

At the opening of the AWM in 1941 the Governor General Lord Gowrie said the Memorial would be “not only a record of the splendid achievements of the men who fought and fell … but also a reminder to future generations of the barbarity and futility of modern war”.

Brendan Nelson should take stock. The AWM has lost its way.

yemen-airstrikesHodeidah (Al Hudaydah), Yemen, 2016: aftermath of airstrike by Saudi jets, supplied and maintained by BAE Systems, a major donor to the Australian War Memorial (Independent/Reuters)

Honest History president, Professor Frank Bongiorno, wrote to Director Nelson in similar terms to Menadue. There has as yet been no response to this letter. Approaches to the Memorial from other people have received similar responses to that sent to Menadue, although it is possible that their correspondence may be raised at a future meeting of the War Memorial Council.

Honest History has commented previously on the Memorial’s approach to fund-raising, for example, this post in April this year, and this in June (scroll down to sub-heading ‘The War Memorial and Dr Chau Chak Wing’). The fact that the Memorial is to some people a ‘secular cathedral‘ (page 143) should not make it immune to criticism of its activities. Sacred cows do not deserve a rails run; in particular, Faustian bargains should be called for what they are.

In a previous post, the present author referred to ‘the military-industrial-commemorative complex: the arms maker provides, the ADF disposes, the Memorial commemorates, in a continuous cycle’. On whether arms spending leads to war, see this.

John Menadue is one of Honest History’s distinguished supporters. For links to previous posts of his here or on the Pearls and Irritations blog, use our Search engine.

Update 3 July 2017: Menadue’s article also ran on Independent Australia and picked up some comments.

David Stephens

30 June 2017 updated

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