‘Racist’ gargoyles at War Memorial
Primrose Riordan, Australian War Memorial’s indigenous gargoyles may go in sandstone revamp, The Canberra Times, 25 February 2015
After years of controversy, there are plans to remove and possibly not replace two “indigenous gargoyles” at the Australian War Memorial, a move the memorial has put down to asbestos fears, according to a new government tender.
But they are not destined for the tip, instead they will be kept by the memorial as part of their art collection.
Among the 26 stone gargoyles of native animals lining the courtyard at the Australian War Memorial, sit two depicting faces of an Indigenous man and woman – which critics have long labelled “bizarre” and “racist”.
The memorial is now asking for bids to remove the 26 gargoyles and replace them with 24 newly carved animal ones using 3D images, mimicking the original style and construction.
Crucially, the current tender does not include a request for two new “indigenous gargoyles” and instead proposes community consultation be undertaken to decide whether or not to replace them.
Assistant Director of the National Collection Tim Sullivan said the memorial was consulting with heritage specialists and Indigenous stakeholders to determine the fate of the 26.
“The eventual outcome of the reconstruction work will be determined by this consultation,” he said.
The tender claims the aim of the project is to clear away attached building materials infected with asbestos, and improve the drainage they were designed to provide for the building.
See also: Primrose Riordan, Historians slam possible removal of ‘racist ‘ War Memorial gargoyles but call for greater indigenous recognition, The Canberra Times, 25 February 2015.