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Stephens, David: Afghanistan not underdone at Australian War Memorial (thanks to Boeing): a flaw in argument for extensions

Heritage Guardians campaign diary follows the story from early 2019 of the campaign against the Memorial project

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David Stephens*

‘Afghanistan not underdone at Australian War Memorial (thanksĀ  to Boeing): a flaw in argument for extensions’, Honest History, 4 May 2020

A key element of the case for extending the Australian War Memorial is that our recent wars, including Afghanistan, are not adequately covered there. Former Director Brendan Nelson harped on this theme; new Director Matt Anderson has taken it up.

That Afghanistan has been neglected at the Memorial is, of course, nonsense. The exhibition, Afghanistan: The Australian Story, takes up around one-third of the Memorial’s lower ground floor and has done so since August 2013. The former director used the Afghanistan exhibition as an example of how much the Memorial relies on corporate donations: without a donation of $500,000 from arms manufacturer Boeing (for whom Dr Nelson now works) the Afghanistan exhibition could not have been mounted, he said more than once.

This exhibition is proudly supported by Boeing.

A word from our sponsor on the Memorial’s website section on the Afghanistan exhibition

Besides the static Afghanistan exhibition, there is the excellent double video set wrangled for the Memorial by journalist Chris Masters, and also called Afghanistan: The Australian Story. We reviewed the videos on Honest History, noting the themes of ‘how well Australians fight, their professionalism, and their compassion for the people of Afghanistan’.

If the Memorial really needs more space for recent conflicts, around one-third of the lower ground floor is taken up with ‘Colonial conflicts’ from the Boer War back (though not including the Frontier Wars). Australian involvement in these mostly small stoushes could be adequately handled digitally and the space saved redeployed. In many visits to the Memorial, this author has seen no more than three people wandering through the colonial conflicts display. The display’s passing would not be missed.

* David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website.