Frequently Asked Questions

This page will be updated regularly as the Memorial’s development project progresses. If you would like further details, please email development@awm.gov.au.

Q: How has the Memorial grown?

A: The Australian War Memorial was conceived during some of the darkest days of the First World War.

Charles Bean, Australia’s official war correspondent, envisioned a national war museum in Australia’s new capital, Canberra, to commemorate Australia’s soldiers and their deeds. This vision grew into the Australian War Memorial, to serve as a shrine to their memory, a museum to house their relics, and an archive to preserve the record of their thoughts and deeds.

By the time the Memorial was formally opened on Armistice Day 1941, we were in the midst of an even larger and more costly global conflict, the Second World War. It was not until 1959 that the Hall of Memory was finished, and the Roll of Honour for both world wars was not installed until the mid-1960s.

The Memorial has expanded since then to tell the stories of Australians who have served in war and on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations.

Six major gallery expansions (including the eastern and western wings in the 1960s and ’70s, and Anzac Hall in 2001) were carefully connected to the commemorative heart of the Memorial: the Roll of Honour, the Hall of Memory and the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

These connections will not be changed by the proposed development.

Q: How was the present development proposed?

A: In 2017, the Memorial approached the government to explain the need for additional gallery spaces. These will recognise all Australians who have served, including in recent conflicts and humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. Eighteen different solutions were proposed, and they can be seen on our website.

In 2018 four designs were proposed and assessed for their cost, heritage impact, flexibility as exhibition spaces, and accessibility.

The site where Anzac Hall (built in 2001) currently stands was chosen as the most appropriate place for additional gallery spaces. This choice protects the heritage of the iconic main building, ensures ease of access for visitors, and improves the visitor experience. It is also the most cost effective.

More space is needed to tell the stories of contemporary veterans, and the new, more flexible Anzac Hall will continue this tradition.

Q: How were the designs for the development chosen?

A: An architectural design competition was held to develop concept designs that would meet the government’s requirements for the expansion of the Memorial.

Four of Australia’s best architectural practices were selected to develop concept designs. These were presented to a jury of three highly regarded architects and two senior Memorial staff. After careful study, the design by Cox Architects, which included replacing Anzac Hall, was chosen as the best solution. The Scott Carver Architects design was selected for our main southern entry.

Q: Will the Memorial building be affected by the development project works?

A: The façade of the Memorial’s original heritage building will not be affected by the development project. The Commemorative Area at the heart of the Memorial, including the Hall of Memory, will not be changed by the proposed works.

Q: Will the iconic silhouette of the Memorial change?

A: Expanding the Memorial by building at the back (the northern side) means that the iconic outline of the sandstone building as seen from Anzac Parade will not change.

Q: How will access improve?

A: The current galleries cannot hold any more exhibits, so they will be enlarged. This means access will also improve, especially for people with mobility impairments. There will be covered access from the underground parking. A new Research Centre near Poppy’s Café will offer better access to materials.

Q: How is the Memorial funded?

A: The Memorial is a statutory authority that is financially supported by government funding, as well as by self-generated revenue and in-kind support (donated services or objects).

Financial and in-kind support comes from corporate partners and supporters. They are carefully assessed to ensure they suit the Memorial’s role and national standing, and do not encroach on the Memorial’s independence. Partners are excluded from commemorative activities, and partnerships are overseen by the Memorial’s Council.

We value the support of our corporate partners. It assists in the development of the Memorial’s galleries, exhibitions, programs, staffing and our National Collection.  

Q: Did you consider expanding the Memorial’s space at Mitchell?

A: We did, but it was not suitable. All galleries and displays need to be located in one place so they can tell “our continuing story”.

The Options Assessment Report outlines the reasons. No conflict or sacrifice of an Australian serviceman or servicewoman is less worthy than any other, so none could be displayed at a distance from the commemorative heart of the Memorial – the Hall of Memory and the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

Q: Why isn’t the Mitchell facility permanently open to the public?

A: The Treloar Technology Centre, located in the Canberra suburb of Mitchell, is used to manage our collection through storage, conservation and preservation. The collection is highly complex, and contains hundreds of thousands of items, including large objects such as aircraft. The conservation and preservation work undertaken at the Mitchell facility make it unsuitable as a permanent, public museum space. Objects at the facility are not presented in gallery conditions, nor with interpretive labels that would tell the stories relating to their history.

The Mitchell spaces are opened to the public from time to time, but are not intended to serve the same role as the Memorial precinct at Campbell.

Q: Why does the Memorial display large objects such as aircraft?

A: Museums around the world use objects to support the visitor’s understanding of history.

The stories of more than 100,000 Australian veterans who have served in the Australian Defence Force over the past three decades remain largely untold. Transforming the Memorial’s galleries, and renewing exhibition spaces, will powerfully illustrate those experiences.

For example, the CH-47D Chinook helicopter A15-202 “Centaur” relates to the service of thousands of Australians. It will help to tell the stories of those who flew and maintained it; the hundreds it transported to and from combat, supply or humanitarian operations; and the wounded who were carried in it to ADF or coalition medical facilities.

We intend to display large objects that have significant histories, along with personal stories linked to them. They will provide the same connection and meaning to the generation who served with them as the Memorial’s Gallipoli landing boat, the Lancaster bomber “G for George”, the HMAS Brisbane bridge, and the “Huey” helicopter – which all carry meaning for previous generations.

These large items are a very small proportion of all the Memorial’s exhibits.

Q: Will there be a live feed of Australian Defence Force operations in the galleries?

A: No. This was one of many ideas that were raised and explored in 2018, but it has not been taken further.

Q: What is the Memorial doing to tell the story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defence of Country?

A: This has become an increasingly important part of the Memorial’s storytelling. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a longstanding tradition of defending Country, and continue to serve with honour among our military forces. We are committed to telling their stories.

There are stories that highlight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service in our galleries, exhibitions and the National Collection. We hold works by noted artists such as Rover Thomas and Queenie McKenzie, relating to nineteenth- and twentieth-century frontier violence.

We continue to work actively on expanding our art collection, and we are collaborating with leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists on commissions relating to frontier conflict.

Q: How are veterans involved in the development project?

A: Engaging veterans and their families on the development project is a key priority for both government and the Memorial. Veterans and veteran groups will play a key role in our consultation program for the development project and new gallery content.

As part of the program, we will host consultations on gallery development in late 2020. There will be sessions for Australian veterans and their families, as well as sessions for the general public. The new galleries will include quiet spaces to give veterans and their families a place for peace and reflection.

Future construction contracts will include programs to connect with, and provide opportunity to, veteran and Defence families.

Q: Will the cost of the project reduce funding for veterans?

A: The Prime Minister and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel have publicly affirmed that funding for the development project will not be at the expense of funding for veterans’ welfare. This is not a case of one or the other, but a commitment to both. This decision received bipartisan support from Parliament.

Q: How does the development project fit the Memorial’s charter?

A: The development project ensures that the functions of the Memorial, as defined in the Australian War Memorial Act 1980, can continue to be fulfilled in the future.

The Memorial's purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of Australians who have died in war or on operational service, and those who have served our nation in times of conflict. Its mission is to lead remembrance and understanding of Australia’s wartime experience.

The Act states, “The Memorial shall use every endeavour to make the most advantageous use of the memorial collection in the national interest.” Expanding the galleries will ensure that more of our extensive collection will be seen, and will create a more thorough, accurate record of Australian history.

Expanded galleries will deepen the understanding of the causes, conduct and consequences of the conflicts Australians have been involved in. And this will lead to a more meaningful commemoration of their service and sacrifice.

Q: Have there been consultations about the development project?

A: The Memorial has conducted broad and detailed public consultation on the development. This will continue at each stage of the project. 

Public feedback informs everything we do. It comes through discussions with Memorial staff and volunteers, comments in visitor books or online, letters and emails, and research enquiries. We have also spoken with thousands of visitors, including veterans and students, Canberra locals, the wider Australian community, and international visitors.

Consultation on the content and design of our exhibitions will start in late 2020, including a national campaign seeking input from veterans, Defence families and others affected by Australia’s commitments to contemporary conflicts, peacekeeping, and humanitarian operations.

Reports on formal consultations are available on our website:

You can provide your feedback by emailing development@awm.gov.au.

Q: How has the Memorial obtained funding and approvals for the development project?

A: Major government projects bring prosperity for Australia. But these benefits must be weighed carefully against possible impacts on communities, the environment, heritage, and other matters. There are four stages for a government capital project in the ACT.

Funding

We secured funding approval in 2018. We are currently undertaking parliamentary and environmental approvals for the project. If it is approved, our project will then progress to the works approvals process managed by the ACT Government through the National Capital Authority.

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