Following the approval granted by Australia’s Environment Minister, the Hon Sussan Ley MP for the demolition of Anzac Hall, the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) has expressed their deepest regret at the decision.
Commenting on the Minister’s decision to approve the destruction of the Australian War Memorial’s award-winning exhibition gallery space, past national president and #handsoffAnzacHall campaign spokesperson Clare Cousins said it further undermined confidence in Australia’s heritage protection framework and the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
“The expert heritage advice from multiple government-commissioned and independent assessments regarding the adverse impacts knocking down Anzac Hall will have on the site’s heritage values was unanimous and has been ignored by the Minister,” Cousins said.
“It is nonsensical to suggest that any of the 29 conditions can, or will, ‘minimise and mitigate’ the impacts from demolishing a building in its entirety – there can be no bigger impact on a building than its total destruction,” she noted.
Describing the decision as ‘disgraceful’, Cousins said the latest development sets a dangerous precedent for the future of Australia’s heritage. She also described the entire process as deeply flawed and lacking transparency and genuine consultation.
“Announcing the outcome for such a controversial proposal in the last hour of parliament on the final sitting day of the year can only be seen as a calculated attempt to once again avoid the scrutiny and criticism the government knew this decision would attract,” Cousins added.
ACT Chapter president Shannon Battisson said the government had failed to meaningfully consider the community's perspectives on the project.
“This is a bitterly disappointing decision that reflects a comprehensive failure to listen to the advice of experts and the wishes of the community alike,” Battisson said.
"We should not be pulling down a building that has been so successful in its aim to pay respect to veterans. While architects may have spearheaded the campaign to save Anzac Hall, it is abundantly clear in everything from submissions to social media that our concerns are widely shared across the broader community.”
According to Battisson, Anzac Hall was designed to stand for a long time, and condemning it to the scrap heap now was a real travesty.
“Approving the destruction of Anzac Hall, when the site’s Heritage Management Plan expressly requires its conservation, is one of the most appalling examples of disregarding heritage protections and rubber-stamping a major public project in recent memory.
“Failing to consider Anzac Hall as part of the Australian War Memorial’s heritage also dismisses the past two decades of history and the memories among the veteran community and others created in the space,” Battisson stated.