A plan to use the Australian War Memorial to educate Australians about conflict between Aboriginals and white settlers has been slammed by the RSL.
Returned and Services League of Australia president Greg Melick told The Australian that the memorial was to honour servicemen and women who fought for Australia.
He argued that conflict between Indigenous people and British settlers should be depicted through a separate monument.
The comments came in response to an announcement by AWM chair Brendan Nelson that the memorial would expand its focus to recognise conflict between Aboriginal people and British colonists.
Dr Nelson said cultural institutions had a duty to present a “much broader, deeper depiction of the violence caused against Aboriginal people”.
The RSL president said he agreed there was a need to memorialise the violence suffered by Aboriginals but that the war memorial was not the place to do it.
“The Australian War Memorial honours the sacrifice of those who have served our nation in armed conflicts and peacekeeping operations, and it is right and appropriate that this is exclusively maintained,” he said.
The Coalition also voice opposition to the idea, warning that it could entangle the AWM in a “partisan” debate.
Opposition defence spokesman Barnaby Joyce said the AWM was built to recognise soldiers who fought overseas against opposing forces and should not be used as a memorial for onshore conflict.
“The fundamental element is that the War Memorial was built in sacred recognition of wars that Australians fought as a nation, unified against an external foe,” he said.
First Nations Senator Lidia Thorpe complained that “despite the War Memorial’s long existence, this country’s first wars, the frontier wars, were not represented”.
A former special forces officer who served in Afghanistan, quoted in The Australian on condition of anonymity, said: “The Diggers think it’s woke bullshit and that the AWM has acquiesced because they’re too scared to say no.”