War Memorial Council Chair Kim Beazley explains how the Council works

Recently, it became clear that there were differences of view on the Council of the Australian War Memorial about how the Memorial should in future recognise and commemorate the Australian Frontier Wars.

The letter below to Council Chair Kim Beazley set out the background and proposed a solution:

21 June 2023

Hon Kim Beazley AC

Chair of Council

Australian War Memorial


Dear Mr Beazley

We ask that you request MAJ GEN Greg Melick to resign as a member of the Australian War Memorial Council. This is because of his public opposition to a decision of the Council.

On 29 September 2022, the then Chair of the Council, Dr Brendan Nelson AO, said at a media conference at the Memorial, ‘The council has made the decision that we will have a much broader, much deeper depiction and presentation of the violence committed against Aboriginal people, initially by British, then by pastoralists, then by police and by Aboriginal militia’ (emphasis added). This decision had been taken at the Council’s meeting of 19 August 2022 (FOI Reference No. 2022-23-07).

You have said a number of times that our First Nations people should be given ‘the dignity of resistance’ and that this should be portrayed in a ‘substantial’ way at the Memorial. ‘How can we have a history of Australian wars without that?

Since then, however, MAJ GEN Melick has been quoted in the Canberra Times of 12 June 2023 that the Memorial’s displays should be confined to those who fought ‘in Australian uniforms’.

“The war memorial is there for people in an Australian uniform”, he said. Indigenous soldiers were depicted there when they fought in an Australian uniform, as they did in later conflicts.

There are clear grounds for MAJ GEN Melick to resign:

  • principles of corporate governance require Board members who disagree with a decision of the Board (the War Memorial Council in this case) to stay silent or resign;
  • section 9(2) of the Australian War Memorial Act: ‘The Council is responsible for the conduct and control of the affairs of the Memorial and the policy of the Memorial with respect to any matters shall be determined by the Council’. A divided Council cannot function effectively.

Should MAJ GEN Melick not resign at your request, we will take up the matter with the Minister. In the meantime, we ask that the Council publicly release copies of Council decisions where there is wide public interest, starting with the decision taken on 19 August 2022.

Yours faithfully


Noel Turnbull

Secretary, Defending Country Memorial Project Inc.


Dr David Stephens

Member, Defending Country Memorial Project Inc.


Professor Peter Stanley

Member, Defending Country Memorial Project Inc.


Pamela Burton

Member, Defending Country Memorial Project Inc.


Dr Carolyn Holbrook

Member, Defending Country Memorial Project Inc.

The Defending Country Memorial Project Incorporated (No. A0120032O) is a Limited Liability Association incorporated under Victorian law with the primary objective of ensuring that the Australian War Memorial properly recognises and commemorates the Australian Frontier Wars.


Council Chair Beazley provided this response, dated 10 July:

Dear Dr Stephens ,

I am sorry it has taken me a while to respond to your communication concerning remarks by RSL President Maj Gen Melick.  As you would be aware membership of the Council is not in the hands of the Chairman or the Council but the Government. In practice the Council has always had members with a variety of views on matters about Memorial content and more broadly. This is a strength.

These views are from time to time expressed publicly. What matters is what Council decides and Council has decided there should be recognition in the redeveloped galleries of frontier wars. All members of Council are entitled to individual views.


Kim Beazley
Council of the Australian War Memorial

Our response, dated 11 July

The Hon Kim Beazley AC


Council of the Australian War Memorial

Dear Mr Beazley

Thank you for the clarification in your reply of yesterday. We will take account of it in material on the Honest History website and in our public statements.

Your faithfully


David Stephens

for Honest History and Defending Country Memorial Project Inc.

Comment from Dr David Stephens, editor, Honest History website and member, Defending Country Memorial Project Inc.

It seems that ordinary principles of corporate governance and corporate solidarity do not apply to the Memorial Council. It remains a question whether the leeway granted to Council members to express ‘individual views’ at odds with ‘what Council decides’ is the same for each Council member or depends on who is expressing the views and what other affiliations they hold. The Memorial’s website contains (incomplete) biodata on Council members.

Update 20 July 2023: Further commentary: ‘What happens if the War Memorial Council goes in 13 different directions?’

David Stephens

11 July 2023 updated

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