Response to questions from The Canberra Times journalist Doug Dingwall – Australia Institute poll on Development Project
1. Do the Australia Institute poll results align with the results of surveys conducted by the war memorial measuring public support for the redevelopment project?
No, the results do not align. Different surveys conducted by different organisations at different times with varying sample sizes, in different formats and different lines of questioning are not comparable.
The Australian War Memorial routinely seeks visitor feedback and has conducted dedicated surveys on the Development Project.
The Memorial has surveyed people across the nation and the results have been one of the many indicators of public support and confidence that the Development Project has great value to the Australian population and is supported in the Australian community.
The Memorial’s main focus has been on what is required to meet community expectation in acknowledging current conflicts and recognising the untold stories of contemporary service.
2. Did the war memorial ask leading questions and use biased information in its surveys measuring this? What were is sample sizes and how representative were the samples?
One of the most recent surveys conducted by independent research company Kantar Public Pty Ltd, surveyed over 3,000 general public respondents, geographically and demographically represented from across Australia. This included over 100 participants from the Canberra region. Over 1,000 Memorial stakeholders were added to the sample, bringing the total number of people surveyed in that online poll to 4,081. The purpose of the survey was to gather public feedback on themes, storylines and collection items to be included in the proposed new galleries and exhibition spaces. Survey feedback is being analysed by Kantar and will be used as the foundation for future engagement at national public forums, and for deeper consultation with focus and advisory groups.
Another national survey on social heritage values, conducted in February 2020 by a third party market research organisation as an online demographically representative (age, gender, location according to Australian population distribution) survey of 514 Australians, showed opposition to the project at 3% and support at 79%.
Other surveys conducted by the Australian War Memorial have included an online general survey sent to Memorial visitors after their visit from July 2020 onwards which asked questions including how supportive visitors were of the focus of the Development Project telling stories of modern conflicts, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations - of 676 responses, 85 percent agreed or strongly agreed. This question was later updated in visitor surveys conducted from October 2020 to June 2021 to “do you support increasing gallery spaces and displays for more recent conflicts such as Iraq Afghanistan, humanitarian or peacekeeping operations”. An additional 404 visitors responses showed that 71 percent agreed, 26 percent of respondents were mixed and 3 percent said they did not support this focus. Among this group, 174 survey respondents identified as veterans or defence family members and within that group support was even higher at 85% and opposition less than 2%.
3. Does the War Memorial accept this survey result shows a lack of public support for the $500m redevelopment project?
The Australian War Memorial has strong public support for the Development Project.
The Australian War Memorial cannot comment on The Australia Institute Survey without reviewing any of the specific details such as questions and structure, survey reach, background information provided, demographic profile (state of residence, age, gender and whether responses were random or self-selecting survey).
The Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Veterans Association also shared the results of a poll of its members in a submission to the Public Works Committee in 2020. In that submission, it reported when asked “How supportive are you of the planned development of the Australian War Memorial to more fully tell the stories of modern conflicts, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations?” 76 percent of the 315 respondents either strongly agreed or agreed that they supported the planned development.
4. Has the war memorial misled the public and parliament about public support for the project?
The Australian War Memorial has undertaken extensive public consultation on the need to expand since 2018, delivering our own national communication program in addition to the public consultations connected to three major approval processes.
We have reached more than half-a-million Australians in person, through our website and social media, surveys, community forums, focus groups, public notices and media coverage.
A total of 385 public consultation activities have taken place, from meetings with community groups, to nationwide surveys and a national roadshow to every State and Territory. We have consulted widely and listened to feedback, and more than 50 changes have been made to the project in response to these consultations.
As shown in the Memorial visitor surveys and in quantitative surveys conducted by independent researchers we have very strong public support for the Development Project.
As recently as 7 June 2021, the former Minister for Veteran Affairs reconfirmed: “The funding committed to the Memorial for the development is new funding and does not come at the expense of investing in veterans’ benefits and services. More than $11.8 billion is provided each year to support more than 325,000 veterans and their families through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.” http://minister.dva.gov.au/media_releases/2021/jun/va050.htm
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