Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson knocks back request to run HMAS Sydney II site

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Kim MacdonaldThe West Australian
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VideoAustralian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson has slammed the 'cookie cutter' toilet block proposal

The Australian War Memorial has rejected a request from Geraldton council to take over the running of the HMAS Sydney II site, saying it would not step in even if it could.

AWM director Brendan Nelson said the memorial’s charter of responsibilities did not let it manage off-site venues and it would not do so anyway because it would undermine community spirit.

“Even were this not the case the memorial would decline to assume management of a memorial that was so closely connected to the local community, with its origins in the work of the Rotary Club of Geraldton and of course a great deal of support from your very own council,” Dr Nelson wrote in a letter to mayor Shane Van Styn.

“Much of the importance of monuments such as this lies in that very same community spirit and their meaning to the people who live closest to them.

VideoThis toilet block will be the first in the state to be transformed into a work of art.

“My experience with communities of your region is they generally want less Canberra, not more.”

The City of Greater Geraldton this month asked the AWM to take over the running of the memorial after the former defence minister’s complaint about the council’s “cookie-cutter” toilet design.

The council wants to install a standard four-stall toilet block but critics — who want a design priced at $1.2 million — have called it a “tin dunny” that is not befitting a place of commemoration.

In the letter, Dr Nelson had a dig at the timing of the request.

“I note this request is prompted by my support for the architect-designed toilet facilities for the site rather than the council-preferred standard model,” he wrote.

Mr Van Styn hit back at some “condescending” comments in the letter, claiming Dr Nelson appeared unaware the architecturally designed toilet could cause damage to the memorial.

“Given the AWM is unable to provide any management oversight or funding to the HMAS Sydney II memorial, I respectfully ask that Brendan go back to managing the AWM (and) stay out of the debate here,” he said.

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