‘Let’s not allow the Australian War Memorial to become something much uglier‘, Canberra Times, 27 February 2021 (pdf from our subscription) Also on op ed page of hard copy of the Times. Letters to the paper followed. Slightly edited version in Pearls and Irritations, 3 March 2021.
Argues that the Australian War Memorial Act 1980 has been reinterpreted by the War Memorial Council to allow recognition of service rather than commemoration of death in war.
Where once we commemorated family members and others who died in Australia’s wars, we will now honour all those who fight and have fought: past and present, dead or alive, disabled by their service or fighting fit. We will gaze in awe at the machinery of warfare, the tanks and fighter planes that will occupy most of the additional 24,000 square metres, and pretend that we understand war better for it.
The Australian War Memorial risks ceasing to be a memorial to our war dead and becoming an honouring of war itself, a rousing endorsement of every political decision to send Australians to war.
Notes the recent report by the Public Works Committee on the project and that the final approval process comes via the National Capital Authority shortly. People wishing to have a say in this process can register as a Key Stakeholder by going to this NCA page.
Update 8 March 2021: Letter to editor, Canberra Times, from Heritage Guardian, Richard Llewellyn
AWM has specific role
Dr Sue Wareham’s analysis of the AWM’s appropriation of a role that its legislation does not sanction (“Let’s not allow the Australian War Memorial to become something much uglier”, canberratimes.com.au, February 27) raises many issues.
Dr Wareham noted the AWM has ignored the overwhelming opposition to the $500,000 repurposing project and “in reality, the views of the public have never really been wanted”.
The memorial treats opposition as not just “not wanted”, but not even acknowledged other than by off-handed deprecation by ad hominem attacks upon persons with great credibility and public respect.
The memorial is being repurposed to suit the ambitions of a very few against the wishes of a large majority of Australian society.
Richard Llewellyn, former AWM registrar, Colo Vale, NSW