The Australian Institute of Architects records its deepest regret at the decision of Australia’s Environment Minister, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, to approve the destruction of the Australian War Memorial’s award-winning exhibition gallery space, Anzac Hall.
Past National President and #handsoffAnzacHall campaign spokesperson Clare Cousins said the decision further undermines confidence in Australia’s heritage protection framework and the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
“The expert heritage advice from multiple government-commissioned and independent assessments regarding the adverse impacts knocking down Anzac Hall will have on the site’s heritage values was unanimous and has been ignored by the Minister,” Ms Cousins said.
“It is nonsensical to suggest that any of the 29 conditions can, or will, ‘minimise and mitigate’ the impacts from demolishing a building in its entirety – there can be no bigger impact on a building than its total destruction.
“This is a disgraceful decision that sets a dangerous precedent for the future of our nation’s heritage. It comes towards the end of a deeply flawed process notable for its lack of transparency and genuine consultation.
“Announcing the outcome for such a controversial proposal in the last hour of parliament on the final sitting day of the year can only be seen as a calculated attempt to once again avoid the scrutiny and criticism the government knew this decision would attract.”
ACT Chapter President Shannon Battisson said the decision was an abject failure of government to meaningfully consider the community’s perspectives on the project.
“This is a bitterly disappointing decision that reflects a comprehensive failure to listen to the advice of experts and the wishes of the community alike,” Ms Battisson said.
“We should not be pulling down a building that has been so successful in its aim to pay respect to veterans.
“While architects may have spearheaded the campaign to save Anzac Hall, it is abundantly clear in everything from submissions to social media that our concerns are widely shared across the broader community.
“This is the wanton destruction of a much-loved public space and all the talent and effort – not to mention taxpayer dollars – that went into it.
“Anzac Hall was designed to stand and stand with expansion for 30, 40, 50 years to come. To condemn it to the scrap heap now is a real travesty.
“Approving the destruction of Anzac Hall, when the site’s Heritage Management Plan expressly requires its conservation, is one of the most appalling examples of disregarding heritage protections and rubber-stamping a major public project in recent memory.
“Failing to consider Anzac Hall as part of the Australian War Memorial’s heritage also dismisses the past two decades’ of history and the memories among the veteran community and others created in the space.”