Australian War Memorial urged to stop accepting money from Lockheed Martin

The Australian War Memorial is being pressed to stop accepting money from Lockheed Martin when its current sponsorship deal ends next month, due to the company’s involvement in nuclear weapons and surging share price following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The AWM’s acceptance of funding from arms manufacturers like Boeing, Thales, BAE, and Lockheed Martin has caused significant controversy in recent years and prompted criticism from former AWM leaders, including former directors and long-serving principal historian Prof Peter Stanley.

In recent weeks, ex-employees, veterans, historians and academics have written to the AWM urging it to end its association with Lockheed Martin when the current deal concludes next month, saying companies that profit from conflict “have no place in a solemn memorial honouring people killed in the carnage of war”.

New polling suggests such concerns are held widely in the community.

The polling – commissioned by the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) and conducted by Ipsos – asked respondents whether they agreed with the statement that “the war memorial should not accept money from companies that profit from the sale of weapons”.

More than half (59%) of the nationally representative sample either agreed or strongly agreed.

After being told Lockheed Martin was involved in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, respondents were also asked whether they agreed the AWM “should not accept money from companies that produce weapons of mass destruction”.

About two-thirds either agreed or strongly agreed. Only 9% disagreed or strongly disagreed.

The association’s president, Dr Sue Wareham, wrote to the AWM director, Matt Anderson, last month urging him to cease the arrangement with Lockheed Martin.

Wareham said Lockheed Martin made more revenue from warfare than any other company in the world.

“The AWM cannot properly lead the remembrance and understanding of Australia’s wartime experience whilst benefiting, through financial relationships with weapons companies, from the conduct of those very wars,” she said.

In response, Anderson pointed to a podcast that Lockheed Martin had sponsored, which told the stories of Australian veterans, including their experiences of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Lockheed Martin’s sponsorship of the podcast is entirely consistent with the memorial’s mission to lead remembrance and understanding of Australia’s wartime experience’,” he wrote. “The Australian War Memorial values the support of our corporate partners. It assists in the development of the memorial’s galleries, exhibitions, programs, staffing and our national collection.”

The AWM has also received pleas from more than a dozen historians, veterans and experts, urging it to abandon the deal when it ceases in early April.

Dr Greg Lockhart, a historian and Vietnam war veteran, told the AWM its role was completely at odds with that of Lockheed Martin, which profits from war.

He said the company’s stocks had soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The AWM’s connection with Lockheed Martin is a shocking affront to its stated purpose and represents a loss of principled direction,” he wrote.

The retired Anglican bishop Philip Huggins said the AWM should never allow its mission to be appropriated.

“The partnership agreement between Lockheed Martin and the Australian War Memorial should never have begun,” he wrote. “What were people thinking? When it expires in early April that must be the end of it!”

Stanley, who was the AWM’s principal historian for 27 years, wrote: “The memorial continuing to seek and accept commercial sponsorship from arms companies like Lockheed Martin remains a serious blemish on its reputation and character as a commemorative institution.”

In a statement to the Guardian, Anderson said all sponsorship agreements were crucial in developing “exhibitions and programs that could not otherwise have been delivered without third party funding support”.

“The memorial creates and delivers these projects independently and maintains full editorial control over content,” he said.

“The podcast series Up Close – Conversations with modern veterans has allowed veterans to speak about consequences of their operational service and the personal impacts of deployments. Without corporate sponsorship, the series could not have been created.”

Lockheed Martin did not respond to a request for comment.

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