UPDATED The Sydney Morning Herald could have told us a bit more about their international relations expert Dr Fernandes
The beer-coaster had no more space to include developments like this for the NBN

What was the War Memorial Council thinking? Remove God and replace with the Word of Paul Keating.

The Australian War Memorial Council decided at its August meeting to remove the words "Known Unto God" from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.   They decided to replace the reference to God with words taken from a speech given by the Labor Deity Paul Keating.


The Australian War Memorial exists because of the work of returned men and women determined to remember their mates.   In particular it's through the efforts of the 1st World War official historian and correspondent Charles Bean that we are even having this discussion.   Here's what he said about his War Memorial.

Charles Bean

In Bean's words "here we guard the record which they themselves made".

This is the record our diggers made on the crosses that marked the graves of men who were unable to be identified.  The phrase "known unto God" was their phrase, written at the time for them and of them by Rudyard Kipling.   Originally on wooden crosses, then on marble as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission replace the wood with more permanent headstones.

Known unto god

Here's the unbelievable report in today's The Australian

Word of God lives on unknown soldier's tomb in War Memorial

THE Australian War Memorial has abandoned a proposal to remove the words "known unto God" from the Tomb of the Australian Unknown Soldier after the personal intervention of Tony Abbott.

The memorial's governing council decided at its meeting in August to replace two inscriptions on the tomb at the Canberra memorial with words from a speech by Paul Keating.

The memorial's director, former Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson, announced the changes in an unscripted National Press Club speech six weeks ago on a day when attention was focused on the swearing in of the new government.

It was several days before Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson was notified about the plan in an incoming briefing by his department.

Senior government officials say Senator Ronaldson wrote immediately to the AWM Council's chairman, Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, expressing "extreme displeasure". He noted that the words had appeared on the tombstones of unidentified soldiers from the Commonwealth since World War I. It was only after a phone call from the Prime Minister to Dr Nelson that a compromise was offered by the council under which the words "known unto God" would be retained.

Mr Keating's moving eulogy to the Unknown Soldier was delivered by the then prime minister on November 11, 1993, when the remains of a World War I soldier recovered from the Western Front were interred at the memorial.

Dr Nelson said it was his idea to put Mr Keating's words on permanent display in the Hall of Memories, marking the 20th anniversary of the speech.


Here's a link to the full list of the Council's members. 

You'll find a list of the AWM's corporate documents here

The AWM's Freedom of Information log is here.   It includes this note about an FOI application seeking copies of the  minutes of one of the Council's meetings.   It says this:

. The minutes are part of the National
Collection and are therefore available
under the Archives Act through the
Memorial’s Research Centre -

I'd be obliged if someone in Canberra today was able to drop in to seek a copy of the August 2013 Council meeting minutes.   I'd love to let you know who said what. 

While they're at it, why not jazz up the Last Post?   It's a bit dour and old-school isn't it?   Surely something written by the trumpet player Louis Armstrong would better represent the War Memorial Council's commitment to diversity and the promotion of a forward looking Australia For All Of Us.

The people who made the plan to remove the historical words used by our diggers are vandals.   They have no place as stewards of our most sacred national memorial.

Rest in Peace.