Australia’s Federal Environment Minister is due to take a decision this week on the demolition of the iconic Anzac Hall as part of the proposed $498-million redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial.

The proposal that includes knocking down Anzac Hall is currently under assessment as a ‘controlled action’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Decision on the redevelopment has already been delayed once.

The Australian Parliament’s Public Works Committee is yet to table their report on the project following an inquiry that received a record number of public submissions, 80 per cent of which opposed or expressed concern with the proposal.

Meanwhile, the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA), which has been stridently opposing the proposed demolition of Anzac Hall, has launched a new social media campaign, #handsoffAnzacHall, inviting Australians to share stories of their experiences visiting the iconic site as a way of showing their support.

AIA described the Australian War Memorial’s redevelopment and expansion project as a wasteful and unnecessary destruction of a highly-valued public space, arguing that the demolition violated legislated heritage protections.

Past national president and #handsoffAnzacHall campaign spokesperson Clare Cousins explained that the campaign aimed to raise community awareness about the proposed demolition.

“The strength and value of Australia’s legislated environmental and heritage protections would be undermined if such a violation of the Heritage Management Plan for this iconic site were permitted to proceed,” she said.

Observing that the Australian War Memorial management had undertaken one of the most misleading and inadequate community consultations for any major public project on record, Cousins said, “Nowhere in any of their limited public consultation materials do they mention demolishing Anzac Hall. Yet overwhelmingly the demolition is raised as a concern every time public submissions are invited.”

“This debate is not ‘just about a building’ as the Australian War Memorial Director has claimed, but about Anzac Hall’s heritage and social value as home to two decades’ worth of shared moments and treasured memories.

“A visit to Anzac Hall is part of the annual pilgrimage to Canberra for countless students around the country and has been for decades.

“Generations of school students have had their hearts and imaginations fired in Anzac Hall, captivated by stories of courage and service to our country.

“We hope this campaign will provide decision makers with yet more evidence that the community does not support destroying Anzac Hall, which is unquestionably one of Australia’s most iconic exhibition spaces.”

Images: Anzac Hall (Photo: John Gollings)