War Memorial council should be disbanded, SAS display shuttered: ex Defence chief

His boss, media billionaire Kerry Stokes, the chairman of both Seven West Media and the AWM council, has vowed to help members of the SAS who were accused of war crimes. He has also loaned Mr Roberts-Smith $1.9 million to cover his legal costs thus far, with the soldier’s Victoria Cross and other medals used as collateral. Mr Stokes’ spokesman told The Australian Financial Review he would donate the medals to the AWM if the war hero could not repay the loan.


Mr Barrie said the council should be “fundamentally changed” because of the connection between their push for a controversial $500 million expansion of the institution and Mr Stokes’ support for the SAS.

“They all need to go. That’s something the government can do tomorrow,” Mr Barrie said. “Kerry Stokes is paying the money to defend Ben Roberts-Smith, and is a chair of the War Memorial council.”

Mr Stokes’ spokesman declined to comment.

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An AWM spokeswoman said its exhibitions were all developed by a “dedicated team of historians and curators” and “council does not involve itself in curatorial decisions”.

Minister for Veterans Affairs Darren Chester said he had “full confidence in the council of the Australian War Memorial”.

“More than 39,000 Australians have deployed to Afghanistan and for the overwhelming majority their service was in keeping with the values we expect as a nation, and the high standards they demand of each other,” he said.

The planned redevelopment, which Mr Barrie opposes, would massively expand the gallery space. Proponents say this is needed to adequately tell the stories of modern conflicts including the long involvement in Afghanistan.

Australian Defence Association executive director Neil James said the AWM should put something up in the gallery “fairly soon” acknowledging the findings of the Brereton inquiry, although he noted the need not to prejudice any trials.


“They can acknowledge the need for the inquiry and what it recommended, and they should,” he said. “The public displays at the Australian War Memorial will have to reflect the fact that there are outstanding matters under investigation. As those outstanding matters are resolved they can change how they describe them.

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“You’ve got to tell the story warts and all.”

War Memorial director Matt Anderson said in a statement he was reviewing the IGADF report and it was “one of the aspects of contemporary service that will be told at the Memorial” in the context of Australia’s longest war. A spokeswoman would not comment on how long the Memorial’s response was expected to take.

Mr Barrie said exhibition items relating to the special forces should be removed until the Memorial decided how to address the report.

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