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Piggott, Michael: The Australian War Memorial should be for all Australians, not just veterans: submission regarding AWM Development Project

Michael Piggott*

‘The Australian War Memorial should be for all Australians, not just veterans: submission regarding AWM Development Project’, Honest History, 5 August 2020

(Note: This article was originally a submission to the Australian War Memorial on its ‘final preliminary documentation’ for its redevelopment project. There is a requirement that the redevelopment be assessed against the heritage provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. HH thanks the author for permission to reproduce the article.)

The author believes the Memorial’s push for more space is based on a particular view of the function of the institution. ‘Who is the Memorial for now?’ he asks.

The short answer is and should be “all Australians”. A slightly longer answer would add “including those who have a family connection to a name on the Roll of Honour”. Not anymore. Now, apparently, the AWM is essentially, primarily, for a much narrower section of the community. In recent decades, the AWM Council and senior management have signalled to current and former members of the ADF that, first and foremost, it is for them.

Turning to look at the features of the planned extensions, the author says this:

None of the arguments for the development are so compelling or convincing that they demonstrate conclusively that only the specific development proposed (and no other alternative) must be supported. This doesn’t matter, of course, as the Prime Minister announced the development as a done deal in November 2018. The June 2020 retrofitted justification (as presented in June 2020 Preliminary Documentation Submission) is littered with non sequiturs, unsupported claims, and inconsistencies.

The author concludes with some suggestions for alternative futures for the Memorial:


Heritage Guardians campaign diary follows the history of the campaign against the Memorial project.


* Michael Piggott AM is a semi-retired archivist with many years’ experience, and is currently Chair of the (ACT) Territory Records Advisory Council. He has a chapter in The Honest History Book. His latest work is a chapter in Community Archives, Community Spaces: Heritage, Memory and Identity (Bastian & Flinn, ed., Facet, 2020). He has written many book reviews and other pieces for Honest History (use our Search engine), most recently a review of I Wonder: The Life and Work of Ken Inglis, edited by Peter Browne and Seumas Spark.

r0_0_5906_3921_w1200_h678_fmaxWH Buck’s unsuccessful entry (one of 68) in the 1925 design competition for the Memorial (Canberra Times/AWM)