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Costly expansion of Australia's war memorial stirs controversy

Critics argue that national budget better spent on fighting pandemic than elevating war memories

At the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, the Roll of Honour, adorned with red poppies, lists the names of over 102,000 members of the Australian armed forces who have died in service. (Courtesy of Australian War Memorial)

MELBOURNE -- A multimillion-dollar plan to upgrade Australia's national war memorial in Canberra is pushing ahead, despite critics' claims that the project is more focused on exhibiting military hardware than preserving the site as a place for solemn commemoration.

The controversy comes as Australia grapples with the chaotic end to its 20-year military involvement in Afghanistan, and as polling suggests a public preference for the funds behind the memorial's expansion to be spent on health or other services as the country tries to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.

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