AUSTRALIAN War Memorial director Brendan Nelson is stepping down at the end of the year after seven years in the role.
Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester thanked Dr Nelson for his "passion and outstanding contribution" to honouring the service and sacrifice of the almost two million Australians who have served in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
"Brendan has provided leadership to the memorial that has made it world-renowned, including managing its extensive upgrades and overseeing the Centenary of Anzac program," Mr Chester said on Thursday.
Dr Nelson is a former Liberal leader, defence minister and ambassador.
In 2018 the Returned and Services League conferred honorary life membership on Dr Nelson for his services to and support of veterans and ex-service organisations.
Dr Nelson said he was humbled and privileged to have been able to shape the institution over the past seven years.
"In a world is changing so dramatically, what is most important is that we never lose sight of that in which we believe and the truths by which we live," he said in a statement.
"Perhaps above all, I am proud that young servicemen, women and veterans now regard the Australian War Memorial as being their spiritual home as much as those of earlier generations. I think we made a difference."
While he would have liked to "squeeze a couple more years" out of Dr Nelson, Mr Chester said the director would leave having set the memorial up well for the next stage of its life.
Agreement was reached recently on a $498 million investment to expand the memorial.
"We've been through a high operational tempo as a nation; we've had a lot of people deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq and peacekeeping missions, but unfortunately their story's not that well-told in the War Memorial at the moment because there's just not enough space," Mr Chester told reporters.
"I think that's Brendan's great legacy ... to tell the stories of current serving men and women at a time that will be the most value to them and their families."
Dr Nelson introduced a solemn and respectful Last Post Ceremony at the memorial each night, inspired by the daily ceremony held at the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres, Belgium.
Kerry Stokes, chair of the Australian War Memorial Council, said Dr Nelson had overseen a "transformation", taking it to a new level of awareness and appreciation by the Australian people.
A recruitment process to appoint the new director will start shortly.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has been reported as being in line for a seat on the War Memorial's board, but Mr Chester dodged a question as to whether he would be considered for the director's role.
The new director would need to demonstrate the leadership skills needed to run an organisation with 200 staff and volunteers, have enormous passion and empathy for Australian servicemen and women, and a commitment to telling their stories, Mr Chester said.
Australian Associated Press
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