A parliamentary committee has rubber stamped the Australian War Memorial redevelopment, but the overhaul has been met with backlash, with the Australian Institute of Architects and Labor MPs unhappy with the government’s decision to ignore public opposition.
The proposed redevelopment includes the demolition of ANZAC Hall, an award-winning building that was erected in 2001.
The Australian Institute of Architects say the government has refused to listen to public consultation and have deemed the proposed $500 million redevelopment as unnecessary.
Australian Institute of Architects past national president Clare Cousins says despite the research conducted by the government-appointed committee, the Morrison Government have refused to consider keeping ANZAC Hall on its feet.
“Since this half-a-billion-dollar development was announced, it has been dogged by failures of process. Throughout, the views of citizens, members of the veteran community, architects, heritage experts and departmental officials have been summarily dismissed,” she says.
“We note there is a dissenting report from the Committee which proposes to save ANZAC Hall. But it seems the Government is hell-bent on ignoring all advice about this building, doesn’t care about the memories and stories contained within this building, and simply wants it pulled down no matter the cost. The redevelopment process and consultation is a sham.”
Labor representatives of the parliamentary committee were on the record saying that they were of the belief that community consultation should’ve been utilised before any approvals were made to the redevelopment of the AWM, and the potential demolition of the ANZAC Hall.
MPs David Smith and Tony Zappia released a dissenting report via the government’s parliament website, recommending that the demolition of the ANZAC Hall was not a part of the proposed redevelopment.
“Labor members believe that the Government should consult further on this issue and consider alternative approaches that do not involve the complete demolition of the existing Anzac Hall.”
Despite the backlash, the Federal Government has moved ahead with its existing plans to overhaul the Australian War Memorial. The project will commence construction this year, with all phases of the upgrade to be completed in 2028. For more information, head to awm.gov.au/ourcontinuingstory.
The recommendation to proceed with the $498 million-plus development, paves the way for the award-winning ANZAC Hall, to be demolished leaving only the National Capital Authority’s assessment as the final approval gateway.
The Public Works Committee was required to report on the stated purpose for the project and its suitability. It also sought to explore the need and cost-effectiveness of the proposal, and the future revenues it could generate.
Four out of five of the submissions received by the committee opposed or raised concerns about the development and since the announcement of the project in 2018, there has been widespread sadness and anger at the planned demolition of Anzac Hall and the ongoing failures of the process.
“The Australian Government and the Australian War Memorial are ignoring expert advice, including from its own advisory body the Australian Heritage Council.
The Government’s own heritage expert report confirmed the adverse impact ANZAC Hall’s demolition will have on the nationally significant site.
“The Institute will continue to oppose this development and the lack of process that has enabled it to proceed so far. The National Capital Authority has the power to reject the development on environmental and planning grounds. It has pledged to consult over the project.
“As architects, we are passionate about preserving Australia’s heritage and honouring our national history, nowhere more so than the extraordinary service and sacrifice of the servicemen and women. Destroying Anzac Hall – an investment of effort, culture, and family memories for all Australians – is a waste and mark of disrespect.
“We will not be silenced on the proposed demolition of ANZAC Hall,” Cousins says. “How could we stay silent when we know without doubt that this unpopular and inappropriate development will negatively impact one of our nation’s most significant monuments.
“We look forward to the National Capital Authority promised consultation and the opportunity it provides to right the evident wrongs in the approval process to date. We will continue to advocate for the project to be rethought and for ANZAC Hall to be saved from demolition.”