Australian War Memorial volunteers told they could lose jobs over redevelopment comments

By Shannon Jenkins

July 29, 2020


The Australian War Memorial has reminded volunteers that they are bound by the same rules as the rest of the Australian Public Service, in a recent email regarding the memorial’s $500m redevelopment project.

In an email reportedly sent to family history volunteers, a memorial staff member warned volunteers not to speak publicly about the controversial project, or else they could be out of the job.

“This includes not providing comment on radio via talk back shows, commenting in the newspaper such as in the Letters to the Editor section, or commenting on a link or discussion on such social media as Facebook or Twitter,” the email warned.

“This includes not clicking ‘Like’ to someone else’s comment.”

The email reminded volunteers of the nature of their roles with a subheading titled “we are all public servants”, noting their volunteer agreements required them to follow the APS Values and Code of Conduct, and to “maintain confidentiality”.

“Public servants, including volunteers are all bound by these, and can lose our job if we are found to have breached them,” it said.

“This also means you can lose your volunteer role at the Memorial.”

Read more: Nope, freedom of political communication does not override the public service rules

The APS values state that “the APS is apolitical and provides the government with advice that is frank, honest, timely and based on the best available evidence”, requiring public servants to remain impartial while upholding the good reputation of the APS.

Last year the High Court ruled that federal public servants have no right to political expression that overrides their legal obligations to be impartial, overturning a previous decision that suggested public servants could get away with criticising government policy if it were done so anonymously.

In the email, the staff member noted there had “been a lot of media attention on the television, radio, newspapers and social media applications, about the development going on at the Memorial”.

The memorial’s redevelopment project — which would see the Anzac Hall demolished — has been described as a “slipshod and arrogant exercise in public administration”, and a “hydroxychloroquine of the museum world”, among other criticisms made by former public servants, historians, families and architects.


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