Honest History E-newsletter No. 64: Special Edition, 22 June 2020

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

Heritage Guardians campaign against unnecessary and extravagant $498m extensions to Australian War Memorial: progress report

Heritage Guardians have made two submissions to the parliamentary Public Works Committee (PWC) inquiry into the War Memorial project.

Submission No. 15 is a brief statement of arguments against the project. It carries 82 names, including authors Tom Keneally and Don Watson, historians Joan Beaumont, Joy Damousi, Michael McKernan and Clare Wright, former senior diplomats and public servants, Paul Barratt, Tony Blunn, Richard Butler, and John Menadue, former Minister and Premier, Carmen Lawrence, and former heads of the War Memorial, Brendon Kelson and Steve Gower.

Submission No. 40 is a more detailed assessment against the PWC criteria, which address the need for the project, the process followed, heritage aspects, and cost-effectiveness. The summary of the submission commences thus:

The Memorial can meet its obligations without continuing with the project.

The Memorial should manage within its existing space – and make hard decisions about how
to use it.

The Memorial’s ambition to provide a ‘therapeutic milieu’ for recent veterans is inappropriate
and misguided – and a smokescreen for its demand for space to display planes, helicopters
and other retired military equipment.

There have been 66 submissions to the PWC inquiry, three times the previous record number of submissions received for any inquiry in the last 30 years. Of these, 55 (83 per cent) oppose the project. Submitters against the project include, apart from Heritage Guardians, architects Penleigh Boyd and Roger Pegrum, historians Douglas Newton and Peter Stanley, former Directors of the War Memorial, Brendon Kelson and Major General Steve Gower, former Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie, former Official Secretary to the Governor-General, Martin Bonsey, Medical Association for Prevention of War, and the Australian Institute of Architects.

Submissions to the PWC inquiry have closed and it will be hearing from witnesses at a video session on 14 July. Heritage Guardians have made an application to appear at this session.

Meanwhile, there has been further delay in the decision-making under the heritage provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. After three months of an ‘iterative process’ between the Memorial and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, ‘final preliminary documentation’ from the Memorial still has not been lodged (Referral no. 2019/8574). When it is, there will be an opportunity for further public comment on heritage aspects of the project.

Heritage Guardians campaign diary.