Open letter to the Prime Minister from more than 70 Australians opposing the $498m redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial

Nov 5, 2020

The Australian War Memorial development project will have major heritage impacts on the Memorial, a place that has deep meaning for all Australians. The intervention by the Australian Heritage Council, the government’s principal adviser on heritage matters, shows that reconsideration of the project is imperative.

Crept – Unsplash

22 October 2020

The Hon. Scott Morrison MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House

Dear Prime Minister

The Australian War Memorial development project will have major heritage impacts on the Memorial, a place that has deep meaning for all Australians. The intervention by the Australian Heritage Council, the government’s principal adviser on heritage matters, shows that reconsideration of the project is imperative.

The Council is chaired by the Hon. Dr David Kemp AC, a former Cabinet minister. Its recent submission to the Memorial under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) 1999 concluded thus:

Regrettably the Council cannot support the conclusion that the proposed redevelopment will not have a serious impact on the listed heritage values of the site and recommends that the matters above [set out in the Council’s submission] be given serious attention.

While the signatories to this open letter have multiple perspectives on the many issues raised by the project, we strongly support the Council’s views and are united in our concerns about the heritage impacts. These impacts include:

· the proposed demolition of the award-winning Anzac Hall (2001);

· the loss of the free-standing form of the Memorial building, to be swamped by a huge glazed addition (that will also be visible down Anzac Parade);

· the loss for most visitors of the existing commemorative entry, with entry mostly being via the lower ground level; and

· on the overall landscape setting of the Memorial from changes to the Parade Ground in front of the Memorial, the expansion of other buildings on site and the overall hardening of what is currently a respectful balance of built and landscape elements.

The Memorial must be supported to achieve its core functions, but this should (and can) occur without damage to its core commemorative strength – the iconic heritage building and site.

We urge the Australian Government not to accept the current proposal. It should be withdrawn and significantly amended, or EPBC Act approval should be refused.

In view of the importance of this issue, a copy of this letter has been forwarded to the Ministers for the Environment and Veterans’ Affairs, the Acting Chair of the Public Works Committee and Members of the House of Representatives.

Yours faithfully, the following organisations and individuals


Australia ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites): Helen Lardner, President

Australian Historical Association: Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, President

Docomomo Australia: Dr Scott Robertson, Australian President (Docomomo is the international organisation concerned with the documentation and conservation of buildings and areas of modern architecture)

National Trust of Australia (ACT): Gary Kent, President

Walter Burley Griffin Society (Canberra Chapter): Brett Odgers


Geoff Ashley, heritage consultant, Blake Ayshford, screen writer, Vicken Babkenian, researcher, Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Paul Barratt AO, former Secretary, Department of Defence, Professor Emerita Joan E Beaumont AM FASSA FAIIA, Australian National University, Dr Margaret Beavis, Vice President, Medical Association for Prevention of War, Professor Diane Bell, Professor Frank Bongiorno AM, Max Bourke AM, founding Director, Australian Heritage Commission (later Council), Penleigh Boyd, architect, Dr Alison Broinowski AM, former Australian diplomat, Richard Broinowski AO, former Australian diplomat, Bishop George Browning, former Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Pamela Burton, Richard Butler AC, Professor Marie Carroll, Dr Peter Cochrane FAHA, historian, Hon. Associate, University of Sydney, Peter G. Corlett OAM, sculptor, Associate Professor Martin Crotty, University of Queensland, Paul Daley, author and journalist; Walkley Award winner, Professor Joy Damousi FASSA, Director, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Mark Dawes, former Assistant Director, Branch Head, Corporate Services, Australian War Memorial, Emeritus Professor Phillip Deery, Victoria University, John Denton, architect, Australian Institute of Architects gold medallist, Dr Meredith Edwards AM, Hon. Elizabeth Evatt AC, Dr Romain Fathi, Senior Lecturer in History, Flinders University, Stephen B. Flora, veteran and citizen, Peter Freeman OAM, architectural historian, conservator and writer, Dr Bill Gammage AM FASSA, historian, Dr Rolf Gerritsen, Professorial Research Fellow, Charles Darwin University, Paddy Gourley, former First Assistant Secretary, Department of Defence, Emeritus Professor Tom Griffiths AO FASSA, Major General Steve Gower (Ret’d) AO, AO Mil, Vietnam veteran, former Director, Australian War Memorial, Dr David Headon, historical consultant, Alistair Henchman RPIA, tourism planner, Dr Carolyn Holbrook, ARC Senior Fellow, Deakin University, Dr Douglas Hynd, Adjunct Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Professor Tracy Ireland, Professor of Cultural Heritage, University of Canberra; editor, Historic Environment, Dr Benjamin T. Jones, Central Queensland University, Brendon Kelson, former Director, Australian War Memorial, Dr Julie Kimber, Senior Lecturer, Politics and History, Swinburne University of Technology, Emeritus Professor Hon. Dr Carmen Lawrence, chair, Australian Heritage Council 2010-18, Richard Llewellyn, former Registrar, Australian War Memorial, Dr Judith McKay, former Curator, Australian War Memorial; former member, Queensland Heritage Council, Professor Mark McKenna, Chair, Department of History, University of Sydney, Dr Michael McKernan, historian; former Deputy Director, Australian War Memorial, Eric Martin AM, heritage architect; former access consultant, Australian War Memorial, John Menadue AO, publisher, Stewart Mitchell, former head of heritage, buildings and services, Australian War Memorial, John Myrtle, Dr Douglas Newton, historian, Brett Odgers, Walter Burley Griffin Society (Canberra Chapter), Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, Chair of History, Flinders University; President, Australian Historical Society, Roger Pegrum, architect, Margaret Pender, Michael Piggott AM, former Senior Curator, Australian War Memorial, Richard Reid, former Senior Historian, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Professor Henry Reynolds, Professor Noah Riseman, Australian Catholic University, Associate Professor Tilman Ruff AO, Co-President, Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Professor Lyndall Ryan AM, Penelope Seidler AM, architect, Wendy Sharpe, artist and Australian War Memorial official war artist, Professor Peter Stanley FAHA, UNSW Canberra, Dr David Stephens, convener, Heritage Guardians, Professor Alistair Thomson FASSA, Professor of History, Monash University, Shobha Varkey, Dr Sue Wareham OAM, President, Medical Association for Prevention of War, Don Watson, author, Dr Don Watson FAIA, Adjunct Professor of Architecture, University of Queensland, Dr Peter Watts AM, Emeritus Director, Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Ernst Willheim, Visiting Fellow, ANU College of Law, Janet Wilson, retired librarian, JB Windeyer, Professor Angela Woollacott, Manning Clark Professor of History, ANU, Professor Clare Wright, Professorial Research Fellow and Professor of History, La Trobe University

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