‘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
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.
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:
|EPBC (Sep-20) m2
|PWC (Oct-22) m2
|Anzac Hall & Glazed Link
|Main level gallery
|Mezzanine gallery & Viewing space
|Glazed Link public space
|Respite, amenities, circulation, back of house etc.
|New Southern Entrance
|Captain Reg Saunders Gallery
|CEW Bean Building new RC, archive, collection support
|Total new space for collection support functions
|Total refurbished space for collection support functions
|Total New Space
|Total Refurbished Space
|Total New Gallery Space
|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.