Australian War Memorial to stay in Defence/Veterans Affairs portfolio

Honest History had put in a submission to the National Cultural Policy review, arguing that the Australian War Memorial should be moved to the Arts portfolio, from the Defence/Veterans’ Affairs portfolio. It had been located there for nearly 40 years since then Prime Minister Hawke agreed to its going there from the Arts portfolio. This followed lobbying from the RSL, whose support Hawke wanted on changes to the Repatriation system.

The move back to Arts is not going to happen as part of this review. The government’s independent National Cultural Policy Group had included in its six-page report, as the very last dot point under the heading ‘Longer-term priorities (5-10 years)’, the words ‘Australian War Memorial responsibility moved back into the arts portfolio’. (More on the release of the Policy.)

So, the move was a recommendation of the Group to the Minister, but it was not taken up by the government in the final policy. We sought some official words from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, which includes the Office for the Arts. A departmental spokesperson responded thus:

  • On 26 August 2022, the Government announced the establishment of the Policy Advisory Group to provide overarching strategic advice to inform the development of the National Cultural Policy.
  • The Policy Advisory Group met as a group and with the Hon Tony Burke MP, Minister for the Arts. The outcomes of these discussions are reflected in the National Cultural Policy and also in the Policy Advisory Group’s final independent advice to Minister Burke, which was published on 30 January 2023 at Further details are available in the independent advice.
  • The independent advice which informed the National Cultural Policy, Revive: a place for every story, a story for every place, includes ten principles to guide the Government’s actions and investments over the next five years, as published in the Policy document [HH emphasis added; note above the War Memorial move recommendation was for 5-10 years out].
  • The Government will continue to consider feedback from the arts, entertainment and culture sector, including from members of the Policy Advisory Group, in implementing Revive.

The ten principles are reproduced here. The seventh principle is:

  • Cultural infrastructure, including galleries, libraries, museums, archives and digital collections, is restored, built and maintained.

Page 71 of the Policy document has this paragraph:

The Government’s role in supporting arts and culture is most visible in direct funding provided to arts and cultural organisations. The Government also invests in arts and culture through a broad range of portfolios – including Infrastructure, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Indigenous Australians, Environment, Home Affairs, Veterans’ Affairs and Defence – and using a variety of investment, regulatory, revenue and policy mechanisms [HH emphasis added].

So, Veterans’ Affairs includes an institution – the War Memorial – which receives ‘arts and culture’ investment. The Memorial may even be one of those ‘arts and cultural organisations’ mentioned in the first quoted sentence. But that’s as far it goes this time around.

David Stephens

David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website and convener of the Heritage Guardians group.

13 February 2023

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One comment on “Australian War Memorial to stay in Defence/Veterans Affairs portfolio
  1. Leighton View says:

    Just too logical to have it in the arts and cultural organisations portfolio! Also, would make it too easy for funds to be moved from the AWM to other, more needy and vital institutions … such as the NAA and NLA.

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