Kim Beazley appointed War Memorial Chair

Former Labor leader Kim Beazley has been appointed Chairman of the Australian War Memorial Council, replacing Brendan Nelson who has been named the new president of Boeing International.

Kim Beazley

In the new role Mr Beazley will help deliver the controversial $500 million Memorial Development Project, which will see a major development of the Memorial’s galleries and precincts.

Dr Nelson, who stood down as the War Memorial’s director in 2019 to become president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, returned to the War Memorial as Chair in April this year in the face of criticism for his links with weapons companies, including French multinational Thales.

Boeing International confirmed over the weekend that Dr Nelson had been named the new President of Boeing International, leading the company’s international strategy and corporate operations.

“Brendan brings to his new position vast experience in government and diplomacy, industry and non-profit associations, that will serve us well as we continue to grow as a global company while navigating the dynamics of the geopolitical environment,” Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun said in a statement.

Memorial ‘damaged’ by Nelson

Former War Memorial historian Professor Peter Stanley from UNSW Canberra, who has previously cricitised Dr Nelson for lobbying arms companies for donations during his time with the Memorial, said he was glad to see Dr Nelson go.

Professor Peter Stanley: glad to see Brendan Nelson go

“He has massively damaged the Memorial,” Professor Stanley told Government News. “I am immensely saddened at how the Memorial has been changed – for the worse – forever.”

Professor Stanley said he wasn’t confident that Mr Beazley would do the right thing as he also had links to the arms industry “and may be reluctant to distance the Memorial from its tainted funding”.

However, he said Mr Beazley was a better and wiser choice than any other Council member, including Tony Abbott. 

Fellow critic, convenor of the Heritage Guardians group and editor of the Honest History website Dr David Stephens, said he expected Mr Beazley would be a fairly benign presence compared to his predecessor.

“Im not sure that Beazley … will have as much say over the building program as Nelson would have because Nelson was involved with that right from the early days,” he told Government News.

“I think Kim will be a fairly benign presence.”

‘Valuable contribution’

Mr Beazley, who was also Defence Minister and WA Governor, served as a member of the War Memorial Council from July 2009-December 2009 until he took up an appointment as Ambassador to the US.

War Memorial Council Director Matt Anderson said as one of Australia’s longest serving Defence Ministers Mr Beazley had a deep knowledge of military history and an impeccable record of public service.

He would make a valuable contribution as new Chair, Mr Anderson said.

“He has an obvious and long held passion for supporting Australian veterans and for our current service men and women and I am sure his empathy and intellect will shine through in his leadership of Council,” he said in a statement.

“I look forward to preserving and sharing the stories of Australian service with Mr Beazley as we deliver the Memorial Development project, together.”

Coming to terms with Frontier Wars

Dr Stanley said the election of Mr Beazley as Chairman was a good sign the Memorial may now begin to reflect the feelings of Australians today, especially over the question of the violent conflicts that occurred between Indigenous Australians and European settlers during the colonisation of Australia.

“Virtually every historian now accepts that the continent was settled violently from 1788, and the Memorial has belatedly accepted that fact, though it seems likely to meet that reluctant commitment inadequately,” he said. 

“I hope that Mr Beazley will help to bring the Memorial to recognise the magnitude of that conflict and the necessity of responding to it fittingly.”

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

3 thoughts on “Kim Beazley appointed War Memorial Chair

  1. As was to be expected, all the public opposition and convincing arguments against the extremely expensive redevelopment of the War Memorial sadly could not stop it going ahead.

    Instead of helping war veterans and their families, who badly need more support on many levels, the construction will benefit the politicians and other military-minded people who pushed for it, the Boeing Company, and not least the big Australian building companies who stand to make enormous profits – which most-likely will not be disclosed.

    Since Federation, and throughout the 2Oth century, Australian soldiers have been made to fight in all the major wars, often at the forefront and with extremely heavy losses. It was never their own war, but that of other nations, especially England and the United States, to whom the country was politically subservient and economically dependent.

    The men and women who actually fought in the wars and suffered enormously are being routinely honoured, but have never been properly rewarded. It’s unlikely that will ever happen.

  2. Dr Stanley’s closing comments about adequately representing the conflict between Indigenous Australians and European settlers from 1788, is the big task that lay ahead for Kim Beasley and the board.
    Its a part of our history and its a challenging story to be told.
    Dr Brendan, I expect was never going to be the man to lead such an ambitious task.
    As we will look back at the recent past and shake our heads at the extravagance of the refurbishing that was in itself so destructive on fabric of the War Memorial.

    It is a strange parallel to our nations conflict, faced in the 1788 and on.
    Words chiseled in Stone: Less We Forget, and repeat the destructiveness of the conflicts and the bravery of all involved

  3. As a former serviceman I am disappointed that the War Memorial has been chosen to proclaim aboriginal claims. This is not the place and the Memorial has been turned into a political playground.
    You have lost my support.

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required