‘Submission to the National Capital Authority: The Australian War Memorial’, Honest History, 13 May 2021
[This is one of the 599 submissions received by the Authority on the current consultation. HH]
I write in defence of the proper powers of the National Capital Authority (NCA), as well as of my own vision of the place of the Australian War Memorial in our history.
Floating in the distance above the lake, at the end of a long road, the pure white dome of the Australian War Memorial is softened by surrounding eucalypts, but in form is as simple as death itself. Perfect in its symbolism, with its hint of mystery and remote lands, it is beloved by all Australians. It appears untouchable, in its beauty and strength and remembrance of things past.
And yet … We read that a War Memorial project of $498 million proposes a radical change to this serene picture, and that the NCA is currently being requested to approve ‘early works’ essential to this project. These are works which will prevent any future change of mind or plans relating to the proposed project, in the form of the removal of dozens of eucalypts, the demolition of Anzac Hall and massive excavations at the Memorial entrance.
How is this possible? The NCA should not allow such ‘early work’, which already closes the door on any possibility of a rethink of the proposed project, to be judged separately from the entire project itself. Already shocked by the thought of such an atrocity as the project proposals being wrought on our beloved War Memorial, we, the public, would be further traumatised by this deliberate request to the NCA to deny its own powers. The NCA should not be treated in this demeaning way, but should be allowed its right to freedom of choice over the entire project. Indeed, it should demand this.
Finally, I join countless others in making a simple request of the NCA. The Australian War Memorial is already perfect, as a building, in its symbolism, and in its heritage. It holds our memories and its form reflects both the origins of those memories and the simplicity of the suffering and often, death, of those sent to serve.
Please do not allow the proposed project to proceed. Please do not reshape, and chip away at, the Australian War Memorial, this jewel in our crown.
* Ann Kent is a Canberra resident.