Knaus, Christopher: Former war memorial heads join call to redirect $500m for ‘grandiose’ expansion to veterans

Christopher Knaus

Former war memorial heads join call to redirect $500m for “grandiose” expansion to veterans‘, Guardian Australia, 16 June 2020

Update 18 June 2020: Later Heritage Guardians submission.


Eighty-two people sign submission to Public Works Committee inquiry (submission No. 15) on Australian War Memorial expansion. Signatories include authors Tom Keneally and Don Watson, historians Michael McKernan and Clare Wright, former senior public servants, and former heads of the War Memorial, Brendon Kelson and Steve Gower.

Full text and signatories below

Submission by Heritage Guardians on behalf of 82 individuals

This submission is made by Heritage Guardians on behalf of the individuals whose names
appear below, following their agreement to be included. The submission addresses the first
and second terms of reference of the inquiry:

• the stated purpose of the proposed work and its suitability for that purpose;

• the need for the work.

The Australian War Memorial’s $498 million extensions should not proceed. They cannot be
justified. The money would be better spent on direct benefits to veterans and their families
and on other national institutions.

The Memorial should be revered, but Australia has many stories. Excessive veneration of the
Anzac story denies the richness of our history, as presented in our many cultural institutions.
The Memorial has been treated most generously by successive governments and has suffered
less from the ‘efficiency dividend’ that has damaged other institutions.

The Memorial wants added space to display more of the big artefacts representing recent
conflicts, and to ‘heal’ veterans. Responsibility for veterans’ welfare belongs not with the
Memorial but with Defence and Veterans’ Affairs. The Memorial’s ambition to provide a
‘therapeutic milieu’ for veterans trivialises the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder
and suggests that memorials can play such a role – a claim for which there is scant evidence.

Much of the Memorial’s extended space will be taken up with a grandiose foyer and space to
display decommissioned planes and helicopters, which do little to promote an understanding
of Australia’s wars, while providing a tourist attraction.

Cultural institutions around the world can display only a small proportion of their holdings at
any one time. They must make hard decisions about display priorities. The Memorial should
do the same, rather than push for more space.

The extensions will destroy the Memorial’s character, affect its heritage status, and entail the
demolition of Anzac Hall, opened in 2001 and winner of the 2005 Sir Zelman Cowen Award
for outstanding public architecture.

The planned direct feed of current Defence Department activities is totally inappropriate in a
war memorial.

Finally, the project has been pushed through with a minimum of public consultation (and little
transparency about the results of the consultation that has occurred), outside normal
budgetary processes, and in advance of necessary approvals.

• Michelle Arrow, Professor, Modern History, Macquarie University
• Blake Ayshford, screenwriter and script producer for film and television
• Vicken Babkenian, independent researcher, Australian Institute for Holocaust and
Genocide Studies
• Paul Barratt AO, former Secretary, Department of Defence
• Joan Beaumont FASSA, Professor Emerita, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre,
Australian National University
• Margaret Beavis, general practitioner; Secretary, Medical Association for Prevention of
• Diane Bell, Distinguished Honorary Professor, Anthropology, College of Asia and the
Pacific, Australian National University
• Tony Blunn AO, former Secretary of six Australian government departments
• Professor Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University
• Penleigh Boyd, architect
• Alison Broinowski AM, former diplomat, author
• Richard Broinowski AO, former Australian Ambassador to South Korea, Vietnam and
Mexico, author
• George Browning, former Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn
• Pamela Burton, author and lawyer
• Richard Butler AC, former Australian Ambassador; Professor of International Affairs,
New York
• Marie Carroll, Professor; Director of Education, Charles Perkins Centre, University of
• Peter Cochrane FAHA, historian
• Peter Corlett OAM, sculptor, military memorials and public works
• Martin Crotty, Associate Professor of History, School of Historical and Philosophical
Inquiry, University of Queensland
• Paul Daley, author, journalist, multiple Walkley Award winner
• Joy Damousi FAHA FASSA, Professor of History, University of Melbourne
• Peter Dean, Professor of War Studies, University of Western Australia
• John Denton, architect, Denton Corker Marshall; AIA Gold Medallist
• Meredith Edwards AM FASSA FIPPA, former Australian government senior public
servant; Emeritus Professor, University of Canberra
• Romain Fathi, Lecturer in History, Flinders University
• Steve Flora, veteran; retired civil servant
• Bill Gammage AM FASSA, historian
• Rolf Gerritsen, Professorial Fellow, Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University, Alice
• Paddy Gourley, former First Assistant Secretary, Department of Defence
• Steve Gower AO (Mil), former Director, Australian War Memorial
• Tom Griffiths AO FAHA, historian
• Marianne Hanson, Associate Professor of International Relations, University of
• Virginia Haussegger AM, 2019 ACT Australian of the Year
• David Headon, historian; Foundation Fellow, Australian Studies Institute, Australian
National University
• Adam Henry, Honorary Lecturer, School of Culture, History and Language, Australian
National University
• Harry Heseltine AO, Professor Emeritus and former Rector, University College UNSW
(Australian Defence Force Academy)
• Carolyn Holbrook, historian; Alfred Deakin Research Fellow, Deakin University
• Douglas Hynd, Adjunct Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture,
Charles Sturt University
• Benjamin Jones, Lecturer in History, Central Queensland University
• Brendon Kelson, former Director, Australian War Memorial
• Thomas Keneally AO, novelist and sometime historian
• Tony Kevin, Emeritus Fellow, Australian National University; author, former Australian
Ambassador to Poland and Cambodia
• Jack Latimore, Goori writer and researcher; reporter and columnist for Guardian
Australia; editor, NITV News Online
• Archie Law, Chair, Sydney Peace Foundation
• Carmen Lawrence, Professor Emeritus and Senior Honorary Research Fellow, School of
Psychological Science, University of Western Australia
• Richard Llewellyn, former Manager of Collections, Australian War Memorial
• Greg Lockhart, historian
• Penny Lockwood, policy adviser
• Ian Maddocks AM, physician; Senior Australian of the Year, 2013
• Mark McKenna, Professor of History, University of Sydney
• Michael McKernan, historian; former Deputy Director, Australian War Memorial
• John Menadue AO, former Secretary of four Australian government departments
• Graham J. Mills, retired Information Technology professional
• John Myrtle, Mawson, ACT
• Douglas Newton, historian
• George Nichols, Director-General, National Archives, 1990-2000
• Brett Odgers, Convenor, Canberra Chapter, Walter Burley Griffin Society
• Charlotte Palmer, retired doctor; specialised in treatment of psychological trauma
• Margaret Pender, retired Australian public servant
• Margaret Pestorius, Wage Peace, Beyond War
• Michael Piggott AM, Chair, Territory Records Advisory Council; former Senior Curator,
Australian War Memorial
• Stuart Rees AM, Professor Emeritus, University of Sydney
• Richard Reid, former Senior Historian, Department of Veterans’ Affairs
• Henry Reynolds FAHA FASSA, historian; Honorary Research Professor, University of
• Tilman Ruff AO, physician; Associate Professor, Nossal Institute for Global Health,
University of Melbourne; Founding Chair, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear
Weapons (Nobel Peace Prize 2017)
• Lyndall Ryan AM FAHA, Research Academic in History, University of Newcastle
• Sue Salthouse, ACT Senior Australian of the Year 2020
• Alex Sloan AM, journalist
• Jeff Sparrow, editor, writer and broadcaster
• Christina Spittel, Senior Lecturer, English and Media Studies, UNSW Canberra
• Peter Stanley FAHA, Professor of History UNSW Canberra; former Principal Historian,
Australian War Memorial
• David Stephens, editor, Honest History website
• Julanne Sweeney, retired schoolteacher; advocate for conservation and social justice,
• Richard Tanter, Senior Research Associate, Nautilus Institute; Honorary Professor in the
School of Political and Social Sciences, University of Melbourne
• Alistair Thomson FASSA, Professor of History, Monash University
• Shobha Varkey, counsellor
• Sue Wareham OAM, President, Medical Association for Prevention of War
• Don Watson, author
• Ernst Willheim, Visiting Fellow, Australian National University College of Law
• Janet Wilson, retired librarian
• Angela Woollacott FAHA FASSA, Manning Clark Professor of History, Australian National
• Clare Wright, Professor of History, La Trobe University

Note: some signatories may also lodge individual submissions to the Inquiry.

Heritage Guardians
16 June 2020 updated

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