THE National Capital Authority (NCA) has approved three packages of works for the $500 million redevelopment of the Australian War Memorial (AWM).
The developments, according to a statement from the NCA, include new and expanded exhibition spaces, expanded research areas and improved access to the site for people of all abilities through new arrival facilities at the southern entrance.
The approval comes following an “extensive community consultation” which found 73 per cent of 587 submissions across Australia supported the proposed works, the NCA’s official statement said.
But according to the Medical Association for the Prevention of War, a not-for-profit organisation working to promote peace and disarmament, the consultation has ignored the true sentiment of the Australian people.
“Having received an overwhelming message of opposition to the whole redevelopment from public submissions to the ‘early works’ (demolition) inquiry, the NCA is now pretending that most Australians, all except the citizens of Canberra, want the expansion to go ahead,” said president of the organisation Dr Sue Wareham.
“Did the NCA consider the fact that after 99 per cent opposition to the ‘early works’ was not sufficient to put a stop to the project, many people would have given up and not have wasted time doing a further submission to an agency whose decision was already made?”
According to the NCA’s consultation report, 59 per cent of the 112 submissions from people in the ACT did not support the proposal.
NCA Chief Sally Barnes on Wednesday commented that she didn’t know why Canberrans opposed the redevelopment.
“The proposed architectural massing, scale, use of materials/finishes, proposed plantings, hardscapes and softscapes are of a quality and design that are complementary to the site and its immediate surrounds,” the statement from the NCA says.
“The proposed works achieve a harmony between the architecture and landscape give continuing effect to the City Beautiful and Garden City characters of the national capital.”
Dr Wareham, however, is asking whether the NCA are aware of the War Memorial’s most recent annual report which included a visitors survey showing “96 per cent were satisfied with the Anzac Hall’s permanent gallery” – a building that was demolished earlier this year as part of the expansion.
“The AWM is definitely for all Australians, however perhaps it is relevant that Canberrans have simply been exposed to more debate for and against the proposed changes to the Memorial,” said Dr Wareham.
“In an online national survey in February 2020 conducted by the AWM, only 21 per cent of those surveyed knew anything about the redevelopment plans, only half had ever been to the AWM, and yet that survey was used to boost support for the plans.”
Who can be trusted?
In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.
If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.
Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.
Ian Meikle, editor