What's wrong with Anzac?
Commemorating Anzac Day should not come at the expense of historical understanding or Australia's other national stories, says president of the Australian Historical Association Professor Marilyn Lake.PT0M0S 620 349
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New Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson is courting corporate and private donors in a bid to see his ambitious plans for the memorial realised.
Dr Nelson, who took on the job in December, does not want to see company logos adorning the exhibits, but says he is ''systematically'' looking for greater involvement of business and individual philanthropists in the War Memorial.
Pictures of service personnel and battles projected onto the war memorial on Anzac Day. Photo: Rohan Thomson
The memorial received $48 million over four years from the federal government in 2011 and in 2012, received $27 million for the refurbishment of the First World War gallery. Last year, it received just $2.7 million through donations and sponsorship.
The former defence minister told Fairfax Media that while government funding is critical, extra support would make the difference between an ''outstanding exhibition and a stunningly outstanding exhibition''.
Dr Nelson is in the process of fast-tracking a new exhibit on the Afghanistan War. The exhibit, which was initially supposed to take years to finish, is now due to open in August.
''This is our longest war,'' he said. ''We owe it to Australia to explain the narrative.'' The exhibit, which will feature relics and paintings from war artist Ben Quilty, will also have a strong multimedia focus.
''This is not inexpensive,'' Dr Nelson said, explaining that he is in the process of securing a partner company to help fund the exhibition.
While Dr Nelson could not say how much the Afghan exhibit would need, it is believed to require thousands (as opposed to millions) of dollars.
The former ambassador to Belgium and NATO has not been shy about making changes to the institution, conceived by historian Charles Bean in 1916.
Along with starting a new daily ''Last Post'' closing ceremony, Thursday's Anzac Day service was shown on a big screen for the first time. From midnight, the names of iconic Australian battlefields were flashed onto the front of the memorial building, along with images of Australians at war.
Dr Nelson has other plans for the memorial as it gears up for the centenary of Anzac commemorations, which start in 2014.
He wants to see the memorial mount a Mark IV tank, a train that was used to pull equipment at the Somme and a Howitzer outside the building for people to see. ''Where possible, we've got to get our stuff out,'' he said. ''[But] that's going to cost money.''
Dr Nelson has also directed memorial staff to start identifying the age at death of all the 62,000 names on the First World War roll of honour.
He then plans to send sections of the roll to Australian primary schools, where students would record the names and ages. The recording would then be sent back to the memorial where they would be played on a loop, in a manner similar to the World War One cemetery at Tyne Cot in Belgium.
''I know this is very ambitious,'' he said. ''It's a very practical way of linking out past with our future.''
The NSW RSL said it was aware of Dr Nelson's plan to seek more corporate funding.
"That's not a problem," president Don Rowe said.
Mr Rowe noted that it cost a lot of money to run the memorial and that the government had not been "overly generous" with funds.