Media reports late last week (ABC; Canberra Times; Guardian Australia) noted that the Australian War Memorial has added a carefully-worded, not to say mealy-mouthed, explanatory panel next to some exhibits on Ben Roberts-Smith VC. It has also removed from display paintings depicting Roberts-Smith. This is on the stated grounds that the area displaying these works has been closed off as part of the redevelopment project.
Understanding the real motivations behind actions at the Memorial has often been akin to reading tea-leaves in a murky pot. Another example recently was the appearance in the Memorial’s flagship magazine, Wartime, of an advertisement for Chris Masters’ book, Flawed Hero. Those who noticed this at all wondered whether the Memorial Council or management had a say over adverts in the magazine or it was all outsourced and hands-off. If there was direct Memorial involvement was this full-page advert for a book very critical of Roberts-Smith, the Memorial’s long-time, larger than life Anzac mascot, a hint that attitudes at Fort Campbell were changing?
Perhaps the prevarication and faffing around indicates a split on the Memorial Council that is affecting attitudes to the Roberts-Smith case – and to the portrayal at the Memorial of the Frontier Wars – and delivering these left-handed, half-arsed outcomes. Perhaps not. Meanwhile, we have it on the authority of the Chair of the Council that its members are not a collective, but 13 freelancers.
10 September 2023