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FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
01/06/2010
DEFENCE PORTFOLIO
Australian War Memorial

CHAIR —I welcome officers from the Australian War Memorial.

Senator TROOD —Since we have been advised that the director is unavailable—

Ms Anderson —Yes, I would like to forward his apologies.

Senator TROOD —That is fine, and thank you for appearing. You will know that I have an interest in the final volume of the Vietnam history.

Ms Anderson —I certainly do.

Senator TROOD —How are we getting on there? Have you had any feedback from the publisher?

Ms Anderson —Yes, we have. As you know, we have delivered the manuscript. We are keeping in touch with the publisher, and the publisher at this point is up to the copy edit process of the publication schedule. At this point they have not returned the copy edit and until they do that they do not feel comfortable about giving us a final schedule. We expect the copy edit to be back within at least a month or so.

Senator TROOD —A month or so?

Ms Anderson —That is my understanding at this point although they have not given us an exact date.

Senator TROOD —That is good. Thank you very much. I have a couple of questions about the Gallipoli Victoria Cross medals tour. Could you explain the reason for the destinations on the tour, please.

Ms Anderson —You would be aware of the background in that we took the opportunity while the Hall of Valour was closed for redevelopment, and at this point we are not exactly sure of the schedule for that. However, that was the main reason for taking the opportunity to tour the nine VCs from Gallipoli. We started off in Western Australia. I thought that was an appropriate place to start. Northern Territory was also one that we thought was quite appropriate given that the large number of Australian Defence Force personnel who were up there would have an interest in it. Then subsequently there will be touring after that. We had to take into account the time that we had available which was limited given it was while the Hall of Valour was closed and we did actually need them back in time for the Hall of Valour opening. So there was a limited period of time at however many venues we could fit into the touring schedule.

Senator TROOD —How long will the tour now be?

Ms Anderson —At this point we are hoping that we will fit in with the schedule for the Hall of Valour. We do not know exactly when the Hall of Valour will be open because that depends on when the construction manager is appointed. We hope that will be soon and that we will be able to finalise details. So until then we have not been able to make a call on just exactly how long the tour will be.

Senator TROOD —Are we talking three months or six months? Presumably we are talking longer than six months, or thereabouts?

Ms Anderson —An estimate at this point for when the Hall of Valour may be open is December. That was our first estimate. However, we still do not know, depending on the construction schedule, whether that will be met or not.

Senator TROOD —I see. I think I am right in recalling that the tour does not necessarily take in all states. Is that right?

Ms Anderson —At this point, that is correct.

Senator TROOD —Can we correct that, or is it not possible?

Ms Anderson —The director has actually discussed this as well on various occasions in the past. I know he is very keen that we take in as many states as possible, and we know that Tasmania is very keen to see the tour down there as well.

Senator TROOD —I am sure one of our colleagues is.

Ms Anderson —That’s right. We would of course be very happy to be able to take it down there but at this point we cannot make a call until we know the schedule for the Hall of Valour.

Senator TROOD —So if it were to be a bit longer there is a possibility it might be extended to Tasmania, for example?

Ms Anderson —That is my understanding, yes. We would be delighted to be able to do that if in fact the schedule allowed that.

Senator TROOD —Good. I do not have any further questions on that, but I did want to ask a couple of questions about staffing in the memorial. I see you are projected to lose further staff—a further seven staff redundancies.

Ms Anderson —That is correct.

Senator TROOD —Could you explain to me please: are these positions that will not be filled if people retire, or are you cutting down on staff—what is happening here?

Ms Anderson —We are expecting to be able to manage that over the year 2010-11 through not filling positions, for example, that are vacant, which has been one of our strategies over the last year or so. At this point that is in place; we will have to see how that strategy progresses as does the year.

Senator TROOD —Has this loss of positions been forced upon you by the efficiency dividend, or is it an inability to argue successfully that the War Memorial needs more money—or is it both?

Ms Anderson —It has been a combination of factors: the efficiency dividend—which, we are aware, everyone is subject to, and we work towards that—and the economic climate. Also, in the past we have managed to augment our funding by sponsorships or through various interest-bearing accounts et cetera. So all those factors combined are obviously putting some pressure on the budget.

Senator TROOD —I think I am right in saying that this is at least the second year in which you have lost staff, and I think you told us, perhaps a year ago, that you were doing the same things—not replacing people who were leaving, et cetera. What is the figure—is it somewhere around 16 or 18 staff that you have lost over the last couple of years, or will have lost at the end of this budget year?

Ms Anderson —Over the last couple of years—I believe that would be correct.

Senator TROOD —How are you coping with these departures? Where are these people coming from within the memorial?

Ms Anderson —It is not one particular area, and we are coping, at this point, by reviewing how we do things and how much of things we do, and by capping, where we can, expenses on functions. It is a general strategy, across the board.

Senator TROOD —So are you taking people out of the research department, for example, or are they essentially in the area where exhibitions are conducted et cetera?

Ms Anderson —It is really across the board in that we have a varied program and, being a small institution, everything is integrated. So we cannot actually choose one particular area where we might have a look; we just have to look across the whole area and see how we can best manage and still keep our functions and core business at the level we need.

Senator TROOD —Finally, have you been able to secure any additional corporate or private funding which might enable you to offset some of these losses from public funding?

Ms Anderson —We are always looking at that. We are at the point of negotiating a sponsorship. I believe it is not quite finalised yet.

Senator TROOD —Is this a new sponsorship, or is it an extension of an existing arrangement?

Ms Anderson —It is a new one related to a Gallipoli scholar. I might ask my colleague Helen Withnell if there are any other details at this point.

Ms Withnell —We are in the process of negotiating, through the ANZAC Foundation, a significant donation towards our staff salary.

Senator TROOD —This is a new venture, is it?

Ms Withnell —This is a new venture. This particular senior staff member has been designated as the Gallipoli Fellow for the next five years, and that will be supported by a donation from a foundation.

Senator TROOD —For what period did you say?

Ms Withnell —Five years—to the end of 2015.

Senator TROOD —Do you have other prospects the moment?

Ms Withnell —We are always looking around.

Senator TROOD —I am sure you are.

Ms Withnell —We have another one, that I am not able to talk about at the moment, from a previous sponsor.

Senator TROOD —We are looking for encouragement that the War Memorial’s excellent record and activities can be sustained—notwithstanding the meanness of government!

Ms Withnell —We are always looking out, and, as I said, we have another one in the pipeline at the moment that I am quite hopeful will be successful as well.

Senator TROOD —Good. Thank you. I do not have any more questions, Chair.

CHAIR —Are there any further questions? There being none, I thank the officers of the Australian War Memorial for attending this evening and providing assistance to the committee. Thank you, also, Senator Stephens, for being here to provide overview this evening. I thank Hansard for their help for the last two days. We will see you all tomorrow. I declare this hearing closed.

Committee adjourned at 9.35 pm