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No more war, never again; no more war

The Australian War Memorial is set for a controversial AU$500 million dollar redevelopment which, according to a Canberra Times poll, more than half of Canberrans are opposed to.

If it goes ahead, the redevelopment would replace Anzac Hall with a huge new exhibition space to display decommissioned military vehicles from recent conflicts. But critics argue that the vehicles do not add anything to the purpose of the War Memorial which is to honour Australia’s war dead.

There are also fears that a new development would ruin the Australian War Memorial’s unique nature, with former national president of the Institute of Architects, Clare Cousins, saying that “over-development will lead to significant adverse loss of the qualities that make the AWM nationally significant”.

A lack of process is also causing concern for many opponents of the redevelopment, who say the destruction of Anzac Hall is both unnecessary and expensive. Anzac Hall was built in 2001 at a cost of $17 million dollars, and currently houses the majority of the Memorial’s aircraft. The hall has been praised for its design and is considered an integral part of the War Memorial itself.

When the War Memorial was opened in 1941 by Governor General Lord Gowrie, he said that people should come out of the Memorial saying “no more war, never again; no more war.” Critics argue that the proposed redevelopments would stray from that original message, becoming a showcase for Australia’s military firepower rather than a reflection on the devastating nature of war.

Renowned war historian and former War Memorial Deputy Director, Michael McKernan, reflects on why the proposed redevelopment is being met with public resentment.

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