Jul 4, 2017

The Australian War Memorial shouldn’t be taking money from merchants of death

Accepting funding from arms manufacturers is not honouring Australia's war dead. It is taking money from those who profit from war, writes former head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet John Menadue.

I asked the director of the Australian War Memorial, Brendan Nelson, why the memorial is accepting funding from weapons manufacturers like BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. In response, Nelson wrote back: “We regard it as entirely appropriate that defence contractors support the Memorial in its mission.”

It is difficult to see how Nelson can maintain that position when the AWM says in its founding documents: “The Memorial’s purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war.” Its mission is to help Australians “… to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society". 

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15 thoughts on “The Australian War Memorial shouldn’t be taking money from merchants of death

  1. Urban Wronski

    Timely, incisive and courageous. The war industry likes to get its way, however. And it’s all top secret, national security and commercial in confidence should questions be asked such as how big is our own arms trade with the war criminal Saudis.
    Note: Kiwi academics prefer Land Wars to the former, historic terminology with all its implied pre-judgements and assumptions. Otherwise, doubtless, they’d expect us to to use Aboriginal Wars for the brutal and systematic forced dispossession the AWM and anti-black arm band revisionists continue to deny.

    1. lykurgus

      I can give you an idea… the UK sells about 5 billion per quarter to Saudi (or 20/yr, on 2015 figures). Our recently-announced deals are (at least) full replacement of recently-banned Dutch supply, who do about half as much arms trade as Britain.
      So in billions per annum, we’d easily be into double digits.
      Senate just ordered Defence to cough up the numbers to them, and will no doubt be told to fuck off.

      I won’t accuse the AWM of losing its way, because in truth it NEVER knew who it was or what it was about… it’s on record as saying it will never recognise the Frontier Wars, for the love of Mike.

  2. Mark Burns

    Well said that man!
    The AWM “culture” extends beyond just sponsorship from the merchants of death:
    4 or 5 years ago when visiting the AWM I was stunned to overhear an official AWM guide describing WW1 battles in boys-own-annual-gung-ho language that sounded more like a Biggles episode than a solemn reminder of horror and sacrifice; being stunned then some hours later was compounded by outright nausea while exiting via the gift shop. There was a father buying a junior commando uniform and a model gun for his son! How did these items ever get into the gift shop??
    The apparent AWM mentality is a far cry from fostering “a reminder to future generations of the barbarity and futility of modern war”.

    1. JMNO

      A contrast to the thought-provoking multi-media exhibition on WW1 at the Imperial War Museum in London which (on an admittedly quick look through) looked much more broadly at the conflict. As do a number of its other exhibitions – on Syria, Afghanistan, etc

  3. Horowitz

    Presumably, the wrath of the right-wing commentariat will descend on the head of John Menadue for this courageous and timely post, just as it did on Yassmin Abdel-Magied for her comparatively benign comment re Anzac Day.

  4. Marilyn J Shepherd

    War memorials seem to be the go to for stupid men who sign up to go to war to have an adventure, as so many of the young men did in WW 1 and 2, the notion that arms makers should sponsor them seems to be quite appropriate today when we consider that since this one opened we have illegally attacked and invaded Vietnam, aided and abetted the US in the illegal wars on Laos and Cambodia, attacked Iraq twice for no reason, attacked Afghanistan for no reason, attacked Syria for no reason and sell weapons to the Saudis to kill Yemenis’.
    Let’s face the truth – Aussie men love war.

  5. Lesley Graham

    It seems that the Australian obsession with Anzac day & the myth that sits around it, is really the only acknowledgement of War this country seems to accept, which is problematic. Having been to the AWM in Canberra I found it depressing & there was far to many hints of glorification of war for my taste. It isn’t healthy to have these arms manufacturers “sponsoring” the AWM, there needs to be some explanation as to why these companies that make so much profit out of death & misery should be a part of it, & who was the person (s) allowing the introduction of their influence into such an important national body, it’s time someone fessed up to the part these war mongers play in the operation of the AWM.

  6. Woopwoop

    Well said.
    My only caveat to what Lord Gowrie said is that I’d delete the word “modern”.

  7. Duncan Gilbey

    “…best we forget …”
    Alternate last line to the Ode of Remembrance?

    1. Charlie Chaplin

      Appropriate, too, since we largely have. Take Gallipoli- an invasion of a sovereign nation we Australians weren’t at war with, had no quarrel with, at the behest of Great Britain to benefit…wait for it…Russia! All forgotten, every bloody ANZAC Day and every day in between. Sickening.

  8. Damon

    Nelson was Defence Minister when this country’s defence force illegally invaded another nation, causing the death of close to 1 million people according to the best peer-reviewed studies in one of the world’s most respected medical journals. This is despite his oath as a medical professional binding him to do no harm.

    I don’t think he minds the merchants of death at all.

    1. AR

      So he is consistent in having always been a hypocrite.

  9. AR

    The only fitting war memorial is a Cenotaph – literally, “empty tomb“, so that the boys-on, Biggles tripe noted above, cannot be promulgated.
    This is not a new thought, Horace noted 2 millennia ago the old lie and Wilfred Owen tried again a hundred years ago – dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
    He died a week before the WWI Armistice.

  10. Charlie Chaplin

    I read a little while ago somewhere that the government will not offer any trip funding to any public school proposing a class trip to Canberra unless the school commits to visiting the Australian War Memorial, and now this.

    Anzackery and the AWM: promoting war largely on the taxpayer’s dollar, because god forbid we should develop a distaste for it.

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