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Opposition to War Memorial’s $498 million extensions grows; more than 80 distinguished Australians sign letter

For the continuing campaign against the extensions, go here.

Today’s Canberra Times has a front page story headed ‘Chorus against war memorial expansion’. The story is also online: SMH, Canberra Times, Age. And Guardian Australia. 2CC Canberra. There was extensive Twitter traffic, with posts being ‘liked’ and retweeted hundreds of times. Canberra Times editorialPetition against the extensions. David Stephens in Pearls and Irritations. Story and comments in The Riot Act (Canberra). Story in ArtsHub Canberra. Story in ArchitectureAu. Nicholas Stuart in the Canberra Times. Stan Grant in Nine (Fairfax) papers. Greens oppose the extensions project. More on the Greens. Greens media release and policy. Binoy Kampmark in International Policy Digest. Sue Wareham of the signatories vs Brendan Nelson of the bunkerbuilders: Canberra Times. Open letter from distinguished architects opposed to the project. Peter Goers in Adelaide Advertiser. Response from Military History Society of NSW. Letters to the editor can be found by Google searching ‘Australian War Memorial’.

Full text of the letter

The Australian War Memorial’s $498 million extensions should not proceed. They cannot be justified, they show the Memorial is being given preference over other national institutions, and the money could be better spent.

The Memorial Director, Dr Brendan Nelson, touts the Memorial as telling ‘our story’. The Memorial should be revered, but Australia has many stories and Dr Nelson’s excessive veneration of the Anzac story denies the richness of our history.

Dr Nelson wants added space to display more of the big artefacts representing recent, but purportedly ‘forgotten’ conflicts, and to ‘heal’ veterans. Recent conflicts should instead be presented in proportion to their significance; responsibility for veterans’ welfare belongs with Defence and Veterans’ Affairs.

The extensions offer Dr Nelson a permanent legacy like that of none of his predecessors. His and his Council’s ambitions will destroy the Memorial’s character and entail the demolition of Anzac Hall, opened in 2001 and winner of the 2005 Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture.

The Memorial has been treated most generously by successive governments, and has suffered less from the ‘efficiency dividend’ that has damaged other institutions.

We have just seen over $350 million spent by the Commonwealth on the Anzac Centenary and the Sir John Monash Centre in France. Should further money be spent on these extensions rather than on other needy cultural institutions or direct benefits to veterans and their families?

Signatories to the letter

The 83 signatories include 24 recipients of awards in the Order of Australia.

Abbreviations: Order of Australia: AC: Companion of the Order of Australia; AO: Officer of the Order of Australia; AM: Member of the Order of Australia; OAM: Medal of the Order of Australia. Other: AIA: Australian Institute of Architects; ARC: Australian Research Council; FAHA: Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities; FASSA: Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia; FCA: Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand; FIPPA: Fellow of the International Public Policy Association.

Many of these people have written books and articles on historical and other subjects. To find them, use our Honest History search engine or our author listing.

Media release.

23 March 2019 updated