Gower, Steve: War Memorial overreach: spending $500m and they’ll demolish Anzac Hall

Steve Gower

War Memorial overreach: spending $500m and they’ll demolish Anzac Hall‘, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 November 2019

Considered op ed by a former Director of the Australian War Memorial. The article mentions the Memorial’s reluctance to consult (and the current Director’s personal attacks on critics), the unjustified demolition of Anzac Hall (‘There were other viable options, but only the one requiring demolition was selected. The decision is a prize example of philistine vandalism masquerading as progress. It is an egregious waste of money.’), commitments being made in advance of formal approval processes, other options for finding space (including making better use of the Memorial’s Mitchell campus), and the inappropriate ‘therapeutic milieu’ argument.

On the alleged need to find space for recent conflicts:

He [Dr Nelson] argues that recent conflicts need to be covered. Indeed they do, but in a balanced way. He seems to regard every commitment as being equal. In terms of loss and suffering it’s unarguably true, but the intensity of operations, the effect on participants and impact on the nation can vary considerably.

On the need for more space generally:

An old chestnut is requesting more space to increase the proportion of the collection on display. The memorial is no different to other comparable institutions here and overseas. Big collections enable periodic thematic exhibitions, refreshing of permanent ones, temporary and travelling exhibitions, and loans.

In summary:

The memorial has not been able to convince its many critics. Perhaps it is time for the government to pause and have an independent review. It needs much more serious examination.

Gower’s recent book on the history of the War Memorial was reviewed for Honest History by Derek Abbott.

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