Stephens, David: Australian War Memorial $550 million redevelopment: Memorial provides some important clarifications and corrections

David Stephens*

‘Australian War Memorial $550 million redevelopment: Memorial provides some important clarifications and corrections’, Honest History, 17 March 2023 updated

Update 5 June 2023: War Memorial answer to Question on Notice from Senator Shoebridge confirms that wrong information was provided to Public Works Committee

Question and answer.


The Australian War Memorial has provided Honest History with updated information about the amount of new and refurbished space the Memorial will gain from its current $550 million redevelopment project. This new information corrects that contained in the Memorial’s report to the parliamentary Public Works Committee (PWC) in October last year (see para 2.1). That report had showed significant changes from information supplied under the Environment and Biodiversity Protection (EPBC) Act in September 2020 (see para 5.1).

The new information also addresses the issue of how much space in the expanded Memorial will be devoted to the Australian Frontier Wars. Previous Honest History posts on this matter are collected under the heading ‘Frontier Wars retreat at the War Memorial’ on our home page.

Update 3 April: commentary referring to this article is in two parts, here and here.

New and refurbished space

Honest History asked the Memorial to explain the reasons for the apparent changed calculations (minor changes for Anzac Hall/Glazed Link, major changes for Bean Building, total ‘new space’ down from 24 744 square metres in the 2020 EPBC document to 17 783 square metres in the 2022 PWC document).

In response, the Memorial said there had been a ‘documentation error’ in the 2022 material: ‘the 2022 documentation should have read: CEW Bean Building new Research Centre and archival space – 1,036m2, New collection support space – 6,009m2′. As supplied to the PWC, it had read ‘total new space for a new research centre, archive and collection support functions Bean Building Extension of 1,036 square metres; total refurbished space for collection support functions in the Bean Building of 6,009 square metres’ (HH emphasis added).

The Memorial supplied the table below comparing the September 2020 EPBC figures with the correct October 2022 figures:

Location/Description EPBC (Sep-20) m2 PWC (Oct-22) m2
Anzac Hall & Glazed Link 13995 13297
Lower gallery 2964 3085
Main level gallery 3448 3604
Mezzanine gallery & Viewing space 465 799
Glazed Link public space 2176 2308
Respite, amenities, circulation, back of house etc. 4943 3501
New Southern Entrance 3450 3450
Captain Reg Saunders Gallery 260
(included above)
(included above)
CEW Bean Building new RC, archive, collection support 7299 1036
Total new space for collection support functions (included above) 6009
Total refurbished space for collection support functions 2944 0
Total New Space 24,744 23,792
Total Refurbished Space 2,944 0
Total New Gallery Space 7,137 7,748
This table does not include refurbishment of space, including galleries, in the Memorial Main Building which is part of the overall Development Project.

In accordance with existing project approvals the proposed changes will be assessed through specific heritage, environmental and planning approvals (or variations) by the National Capital Authority and Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water including public consultation where required.

Honest History notes that there is only a marginal difference between the 2020 total new space figure and the corrected 2022 total new space figure.

The Memorial provided additional information as follows:

As with any major project the Memorial’s designs have gone through several key design phases. Through the detailed design process the Memorial was able to refine the interior of the new Anzac Hall and Glazed Link designs to maximise public space (8% more than the 2020 schematic design) and deliver more space efficient ‘back of house’ systems and spaces. The final ‘for construction’ design is consistent with all existing approvals and has included input from key agencies including the National Capital Authority as part of the design process.

These figures [for new space] are slightly smaller than the 2020 submission “new space” figure as, through detailed design, a number of functions were agreed to be retained in existing buildings/facilities rather than in the new CEW Bean Building extension. Again, the final design is consistent with all existing approvals.

The planned refurbishment of the existing Bean Building space was removed from the Project scope of works as the final design resolution of the extension and retention of functions in existing facilities meant it was no longer required.

Notation of the Captain Reg Saunders Gallery (CRSG) in the New Southern Entrance as this is a permanent gallery space and not part of the flexible space in this area which may be used for temporary exhibitions, commemorative gatherings, anniversary exhibitions (i.e. anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Sydney etc.) etc.

Inclusion of a “Total New Gallery Space” figure for the two submissions (does not include Southern Entrance flexible gallery space, does include CRSG).

Note that these m2 allocations don’t include considerations such as partition walls between exhibition areas, details on circulation or gathering space etc., they’re literally the floor plan area measurements for “empty” spaces prior to exhibition content installation.

Australian Frontier Wars

Memorial Director Anderson said this at Senate Estimates on 8 November (page 35 of the Hansard):

If I can just restate, and also if I can put this into perspective, the precolonial galleries, as they are called—and they will now be called the pre-1914 galleries—are about 408 square metres of space. That’s what we’re talking about. In those 408 square metres of space we’ll also discuss the Boer Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, Sudan, and the New Zealand wars.

Honest History asked the Memorial to clarify the current status of the 408 square metres referred to above. The Memorial clarified that the proposed 408 square metres was not part of new space but part of changes to the Memorial Main Building.

The Memorial further responded as follows:

These figures [in the table above] do not include changes to the Memorial Main Building gallery spaces that are currently under consideration. For additional context exhibition design for these spaces won’t start until 2024/5 noting the following:

  • The 408m2 pre-Federation gallery referred to by our Director at Estimates is included within the proposed Main Building changes, this number has not changed but is subject to approvals and final design resolution
  • No determination has been made on allocation of specific amounts/proportions of space within this gallery, this will be determined in part through community consultation as part of exhibition development from 2024/5 onwards
  • Note that any exhibition design re: frontier violence will be undertaken in close consultation with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group and the broader First Nations community.

Given these three points, Honest History asked what was the current basis for the 408 square metres calculation. The Memorial responded that the figure came from ‘the current “Schematic Design” (i.e. design to the same level as the EPBC documentation for Main Building refurbishments’).

For comparison purposes with the 408 square metres, Honest History then asked what was the size of the old Colonial Conflicts gallery at the Memorial, given that (as noted above) the Director said at Estimates that the new pre-1914 galleries would cover the same subject matter as the old galleries (Frontier Wars, Boer Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, Sudan, and the New Zealand wars).

The Memorial responded that the Colonial Conflicts gallery covered approximately 385 square metres.

Honest History notes that new space of 408 square metres would be just 23 square metres larger than the old space of 385 square metres. That is, just under 6 per cent larger.

The Memorial pointed out that the previous Colonial Conflicts gallery ‘was something of a “rabbit warren” due to changing floor levels, columns etc. The proposed new gallery space is less cluttered and more usable.’

The Memorial provided the following further advice:

  • Proportion of those displays in the allocated space hasn’t been decided and won’t be until after design commences in 2024/25.
  • The size and nature of that [Frontier Wars] exhibition will be decided in close consultation with Indigenous communities and the broader Australian community, as well as with the expert advice of historians, curators and exhibition designers.


The above flow of information followed the lodging by Honest History ten days ago of a Freedom of Information claim to the Memorial seeking reason(s) for the changes in calculations between September 2020 and October 2022. The Memorial offered to provide the information as above and the FOI claim was withdrawn.

The information has been presented as the Memorial provided it and without intervention from Honest History other than to summarise the questions put to the Memorial and to provide context. We will provide comment separately in a later post (Update 3 April: in two parts, here and here). Honest History appreciates the assistance the Memorial has provided on this occasion. Where necessary, we will update our previous posts to take account of the above information. (Update 26 March 2023: and have now done so, here, here, and here.)

*David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website and has been convener of the Heritage Guardians group opposed to the Memorial redevelopment

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3 comments on “Stephens, David: Australian War Memorial $550 million redevelopment: Memorial provides some important clarifications and corrections
  1. admin says:

    Honest History gave the Memorial the opportunity to comment on Mr Llewellyn’s comment below, offering to print without amendment any response provided. The Memorial responded as follows:

    Thanks for the notice and opportunity to comment. The Memorial has no comment to make on Mr Llewellyn’s response to your article.

  2. admin says:

    Richard Llewellyn (comment below) was Registrar at the Australian War Memorial from 1986 to 1995. He also acted as Assistant Director for Visitor Services for a period and as Director for an extremely brief period. Among his significant achievements was project management of construction of the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier (TUAS), control of the TUAS entombment ceremony, and conception through to delivery of the Treloar Centre building at Mitchell ACT. He has recently been active as a supporter of the Heritage Guardians fighting the AWM development project. He has written articles for Honest History (use our Search engine), analysed the Memorial redevelopment project, and written articles for Pearls & Irritations on this and other subjects.

  3. Richard Llewellyn says:

    The Memorial figures are (deliberately) misleading – and not by a little, by very large amount. Probably this is because the money involved is far more than a very large amount, it is an obscenity.

    Dissected: the Memorial claims as ‘new’ space, 13,297 square metres comprising the replacement Anzac Hall and the Glazed Link.

    Firstly, the claimed ‘new’ Anzac Hall area does not allow for the fact that the ‘old’ Anzac Hall was almost the same footprint, about 3,000 square metres. So the base level of the ‘New’ Anzac Hall should be considered refurbished space: extreme refurbishment, certainly, but nevertheless space for exhibiting Large Technology Objects that used to be space for exhibiting Large Technology Objects. Many of the same objects will be returned to the claimed ‘new’ basement level.

    So that reduces ‘new’ space to about 10,300 square metres. Somewhat less in fact, as ‘viewing space’ from the mezzanine floor is included: ‘viewing space’ is empty air, it is NOT ‘new exhibition gallery space’. It is just an additional perspective on the exhibits below. Without the current plans I cannot say what area this is but I suspect it comprises most of the revised 2022 figuring, so let us be generous and take it as 200 square metres

    Now 10,100 square metres.

    What about the ‘new’ Glazed Link of 2,308 square metres? That space has been used for many, many years as exhibition space, for very Large Technology Objects. It will have a roof, allowing visitors to quaff their coffee and ham croissants in a sidewalk-cafe style setting, under the shade of some of the cast-off LTOs so beloved of ex-Director Brendan Nelson (some of which he in fact purchased when Minister of Defence).

    Now down to 7792 square metres of ‘new’ space.

    Then we remove the 3501 square metres of new space that is intended for space for: Respite, amenities, circulation, back of house etc and we are left with a real ‘new’ gallery space of 4,291 square metres. Only a bit more than half of the Memorial’s claimed 7,748 square metres (which does not compute from the figures provided).

    That is the actual area – by the Memorial’s own figures – that is actually contributing to the primary purpose of the AWM project, viz. (from its submission to the Public Works Committee) to be:

    (i) the telling of the stories of recent conflicts and operations at a level of detail consistent with earlier conflicts, and (ii) the Memorial properly recognising the service of those who served in recent conflicts and operations.

    So to deliver ‘new gallery space’ is costing taxpayers about $128,000 per square metre. ( by current estimates and those will, inevitably, rise significantly.

    Even if the Memorial’s claimed ‘new gallery space’ of 7,748 is in fact correct (which it cannot be), it comes in at about $71,000 per square metre.

    Meanwhile, veterans needing assistance from the government are still, I believe, waiting for their cases to even be considered.

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