Controversial Australian War Memorial works receive go ahead

By Jackson Graham

Wednesday November 24, 2021

Redevelopment can begin at the Australian War Memorial.
Redevelopment can begin at the Australian War Memorial. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Works at the Australian War Memorial have received a green light, with a consultation paper having received hundreds of submissions canvassing views on the project. 

The $489 million redevelopment received approval for early works in June, and the National Capital Authority has now granted approval for the main works. 

The main works will see a new southern entrance, a new Anzac Hall and glazed link, and an extension to the Bean Building as well as a central energy plant. 

Among sticking points for critics of the plan has been the replacement of the existing Anzac Hall, which is just 20 years old. 

A number of former War Memorial figures and former defence force chief Chris Barrie have publicly raised concerns about the work

The NCA, a planning and development authority, undertook community consultation from late July to early September and received 587 submissions. 

The submissions, which came from all states and territories, showed that 73% supported the plans. 

However, in the ACT 58.9% did not support the works — the only jurisdiction to have fewer submissions supporting the redevelopment. The biggest number of submissions came from NSW, where 75% supported the plan. 

“Many of these submissions were from veterans who welcomed the opportunity that the proposal provides for recognition of more recent service and sacrifice,” the NCA notes in a report

It found the general theme of criticism was that the War Memorial was shifting its curatorial direction as a place of “solemn reflection” to a “military museum”. 

“The need for the expansion and the story to be told within the expanded facility are matters for the AWM Council, and Australia’s elected representatives within the Australian Parliament,” the NCA said. 

“The NCA does not have a role in determining the content of exhibitions or the curatorial direction of the AWM.” 

Ahead of its June approval of early works the NCA had received 601 submissions to the proposal, many referring to the removal of trees impacting the heritage value, the demolition of Anzac House and the cost of the project. 

The Australian War Memorial is expected to submit a third works application in April 2022 for public realm works.

Prime minister Scott Morrison in November 2018 announced $498 million would be provided to the War Memorial over nine years for works he described as “imaginative … creative and appropriate for the Memorial’s purpose and place in Australia”. 


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