Shuffling the brass on the Australian War Memorial Council: Air Marshal Hupfeld takes a seat

The government has announced the appointment of Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld as Chief of Air Force, to replace Air Marshal Leo Davies. Air Marshal Hupfeld will take up his position on 1 July.

The Chief of Air Force ex officio gets a seat on the Council of the Australian War Memorial. With the change of occupant of the Air Force seat (or cockpit, perhaps) on the Council, the Council’s 13 members will continue to include seven members who are or were senior officers (Lieutenant Colonel equivalent or above) in the Australian Defence Force. (There is currently a vacancy on the Council, following the recent death of Les Carlyon. Current members Daniel Keighran VC and Sharon Bown have been reappointed.)

Recently, Honest History suggested that positions on the Council could be filled by public advertisement or even election. The present author first said this in 2016:

Australians enlisted for our major wars in great numbers. Some of them became officers. A handful of them became senior officers. Decades on, too much of the control of our national war memorial has devolved to the senior officer cadre and a supporting cast of the Australian version of “the great and the good”. The people should be allowed to take back this role. The remembrance of war – and, more importantly, the prospect of peace – are too important to be left to those who have made a profession out of military activity or a hobby out of military history. These matters affect all of us and our future, not just those who try to keep the Anzac flame burning in pretty much the same way as it has for the last century.

The War Memorial Council as presently composed is an anachronism. It stands in the way of significant change in the way we commemorate war and hope for a peaceful future. A Council which was more representative of the range of Australian experience of war – and of Australians – would help the Memorial tell a more rounded story, a story not just of daring and death in uniform but of the widespread and lasting effects of war on individuals, families (especially women and children) and communities. The story not just of what Australians have done in war but of what war has done to Australia and Australians – and what it should never do again.

David Stephens

1 April 2019 updated

IMG_1352-550x430Too much brass on the Council? (xtremebullets)

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