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Anzac centenary Nelson's top priority for AWM

Former politician Brendan Nelson, has been appointed as director of the War Memorial.

Former politician Brendan Nelson, has been appointed as director of the War Memorial. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Brendan Nelson is promising to deliver value for money in his new role as director of the Australian War Museum.

One of his highest priorities after taking over on Monday will be to check on preparations for commemorations to mark the Anzac centenary.

''The Australian people through the Australian government have invested a lot in this and their expectations are quite rightly high,'' he told Fairfax Media.

''I understand that the progress is on track but I do know the buck, if you like, will stop with me and with the council but I can assure you we will deliver, I will make absolutely certain that people get value for money.''

Dr Nelson is a former defence minister, opposition leader and most recently Australia's ambassador to the European Union.

In an interview before taking up his post, he described the position as a dream job while conceding he has not run a museum.

''The way I see it, it's the crown jewels, and that's the way I will regard it,'' he said.

''The memorial is a shrine and a museum and an educational centre so I am in awe of the expertise and knowledge of the people who actually run the memorial but there are other skills I bring to it.

''It is our history but it has everything to do with our future and what these men and women have done over more than a century now says so much to us about us and who we are.

''In the period I am able to be the director I will do everything I can to see that every Australian feels a connection with the place.''

While all of Canberra's cultural institutions are under pressure to find savings to fulfil the higher ''efficiency dividend'', the memorial was given $27 million to prepare for the Anzac centenary.

The War Memorial is redeveloping its World War I galleries, including the historic dioramas depicting grim battle scenes.

The memorial wants to bring the galleries up to standards demanded by the public, and has said the layout is confusing to visitors as well as being poorly lit and not conforming to building standards.

Dr Nelson said that during his time running a medical locum service in Tasmania, he visited many homes, sometimes up to 25 a night.

''I noticed that in every house of anybody who was over the age of 75, there were black-and-white photographs of young men in uniform on mantle pieces and on walls, looking out into lives that were often not lived, it was quite striking,'' he said.

''There were very few homes in this country that have not been affected by our involvement in wars.''

He will make it a high priority to meet Sarah McCarthy and Avril Clark, who have unsuccessfully campaigned for peacekeepers killed on service to be included on the Roll of Honour.

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