Wareham, Sue & David Stephens: War Memorial ‘consultation’ was a sham from the start

Sue Wareham and David Stephens

War Memorial “consultation” was a sham from the start‘, Canberra Times, 16 September 2021 (pdf from our subscription)

An op ed containing detailed analysis of the process which has led to the Australian War Memorial destroying itself. Goes through the story from avoidance of Cabinet process, billionaire’s personal guarantee of funding, slipshod heritage examination, cursory Public Works Committee assessment, dodgy Memorial ‘public opinion’ surveys, farcical consultation by the National Capital Authority, whose approval of ‘early works’, including the demolition of Anzac Hall, made further consultation redundant.

Thus the NCA was the last line of defence against a hugely unpopular proposal to transform one of our most important national institutions, against overwhelming expert advice and at vast financial cost. It failed us utterly, and virtually abrogated responsibility to even try, hiding behind decisions already made, including that of [heritage minister] Ley …

The National Capital Plan, which the NCA is tasked to uphold, refers to the “symbolism and dignity” of our national capital. But what does it symbolise about us as a nation, when our most important space for commemorating wars’ victims is about to be overshadowed in scale and prominence by an exhibition of military hardware? While community members have been marginalised, centre stage will be granted to the weapons of war, to be displayed alongside – assuming current AWM practice continues – honourable mentions of the corporations that make them.

Sue Wareham is President of the Medical Association for Prevention of War. David Stephens is convener of Heritage Guardians and editor of the Honest History website. Heritage Guardians campaign diary.

Now playing in Canberra: the Memorial that destroyed itself

(photo: Anzac Hall vandalised; credit: Alex Ellinghausen)


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