The Federal Government has bowed to community pressure and committed to an additional $8 million a year funding boost for the Australian War Memorial.
The decision follows a year-long public campaign by AWM supporters, including Council Chairman, General Peter Cosgrove, who last month said the hallowed institution faced “inexorable decline” and would be forced to close one day a week, cut staff numbers and reduce Anzac Day commemorations.
Prime Minister Gillard announced the funding increase today. It included a one-off payment of $1.7m for the redevelopment of the memorial's WWI galleries and would be in addition to the memorial's regular annual funding of around $38m.
Ms Gillard conceded that the AWM had been forced to dip into capital reserves to pay for daily running costs.
"The new funding will ensure the memorial can adequately respond to increased demands for these events as well as supporting general inquiries, multimedia and educational programs, research centre services and professional historical advice," she said.
AWM director, Steve Gower, only found out about the additional funding this morning. He said it would prevent staff layoffs and would be applied towards the return of open days, exhibition upgrades and more stands for veterans on Anzac day.
It would also mean that at least 20 AWM staff would now keep their jobs.
"I think everyone's aware that cuts in staff were projected over the next few years. So that won't occur,'' he said. "We can have more public activities, plaque dedication programs for units, more activities in the galleries to attract people we want to engage.”
So, once again it took concerted community pressure and potential public embarrassment before the government faced up to its responsibility to adequately fund one of the nation’s most respected institutions.