Shadow Cabinet has opposed any move that could put the Australian War Memorial at the centre of partisan political debate, saying its sanctity as a shrine of remembrance to Australian servicemen and women who made sacrifices in conflicts against an external foe, must be preserved.
Former Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Barnaby Joyce, said the Coalition recognised the historic conflicts between Europeans and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations referred to by some as the ‘frontier wars’; and recognised the historic internecine conflicts amongst Australia’s first nations’ peoples.
“The fundamental element is that the War Memorial was built in sacred recognition of wars that Australians fought as a nation, unified against an external foe. It is not to be a memorial for conflicts within Australia”, he said.
“The truth of both is absolute but the fundamental element is different. There are many memorials in Australia and in Canberra that represent the ultimate sacrifice of the person who lays down their life for others in a noble cause, but they are not all in the Australian War Memorial. This does not judge the value of those lives as different.
“Shadow Cabinet resolved that conflicts involving first nations’ people are best remembered at Ngurra, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct, for which design work is already underway”, Mr Joyce said.
The new Ngurra facility, which the former Coalition Government had already committed nearly $320 million towards, will be built in the Parliamentary Triangle between Old Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial, in the heart of the nation’s capital.
“It’s positioning between the Australian War Memorial and the Parliament, by its very location, is a better philosophical representation of the issues pertinent to internal conflict as opposed to a common sacrifice against an external foe”, he said.
“It is proposed this will be both a learning centre and a national resting place for the care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains. Over time, Ngurra will collect its own traditions and rituals that will be born from its national status as a place to celebrate, educate, reflect, and commemorate”, he said.
Mr Joyce said the Australian War Memorial was a place of unity which remembered all those who had fought for Australia, for a common purpose against a common foe.
“Conflicts within Australia that pitted Australians against other Australians in our own land, in some instances internecine, should be represented and discussed in a memorial that takes into account this significant difference, and not at the Australian War Memorial which has its philosophical remit in the carnage suffered by those who went to fight for Australia in the First World War”, Mr Joyce said.