- Allegations of environmental damage,
and Australian authorities' response
examines the two main criticisms of the recent construction work on the coastal
road on the peninsula. The first is that the roadworks have uncovered bone fragments
of soldiers killed without burial in the 1915 conflict. There has been
accompanying concern that no archaeological survey of the site was conducted
prior to the construction work commencing. The second criticism is that the
roadworks have caused permanent damage to the military heritage of the
landscape. It is claimed that the road has been widened beyond the extent
necessary to ensure visitors' safety; that spoil has been deliberately dumped
onto the beach below; that there were no environmental measures put in place to
minimise erosion from the construction; and that no effort was made to preserve
the footsteps of the original ANZACs. No effort appears to have been made to
identify and record sites of military heritage by Australian authorities, despite
representations to do so prior to the work.
The chapter then
notes the response of Australian authorities to these claims. It does so based
on official public statements from government ministers, and the evidence
presented to the Committee by officials from the Department of Veterans'
Affairs (DVA), the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the
Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), and the Department of the
Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC).
Allegations that bone fragments have been unearthed
In terms of the
effect of the roadworks, a matter of key interest to the inquiry was the
allegation that human remains—bone fragments—had been unearthed in construction
works on the coastal road.
was first made public on 6 March 2005 in Frank Walker’s articles in both The Age and the Sun Herald. The Sun Herald article reported that human remains 'are believed to
have been dug up and destroyed by Turkish workers as they widen a road for
tourist buses on ANZAC Cove'. Both
articles noted Mr Sellars' claims that the roadworks must have dug up human
remains as many Australians and Turks were hastily buried on the beach and
On 12 March 2005,
Mr Sellars himself authored articles in the Daily
Telegraph and the Herald Sun, which
produced photographs of 'what appear to be leg and hip bones' at the road
construction site. The articles
claimed that the photographs refuted statements by the Australian and Turkish
Governments that no human remains have been dug up at Gallipoli.
heard evidence from Mr Sellars concerning his comments on the unearthing of bone
fragments. Mr Sellars explained that on 1 March 2005, Fairfax journalist Russell Skelton, Turkish tourism operator Ilhami Gezici and his wife Bernina, and 'a number of other people'
were all present when the bones were found.
Mr Sellars subsequently identified these other people as his
wife, Ms Serpil Karacan Sellars, and a tour guide with 'Hassle Free' tour agency
In his opening
statement, Mr Sellars told the Committee that in mid-March 2005, the
Australian Ambassador to Turkey, Ms
Jean Dunn, had discussed these allegations with him. Mr
Sellars explained to the Ambassador that one of the bones had
been removed soon after he, Mr
Skelton, and the others present, had found it at the site.
The Committee heard Mr Sellars confirm that Turkish employees of the company
carrying out the roadworks had removed the bone fragment.
findings of professional archaeologists in the Gallipoli area give credence to Mr
Sellars' allegations. In January 2003, for example,
Australian archaeologist Dr
David Cameron found a largely uncovered human femur at ANZAC Cove,
along Walker's Ridge. A picture of the femur is displayed on an Australian National University website.
Allegations that the landscape has been damaged
The second matter
of environmental concern to the Inquiry was the allegation that the roadworks
had permanently damaged the landscape at ANZAC Cove.
On 9 April 2005, federal opposition leader, the Hon. Kim Beazley, described the roadworks as a 'historical tragedy',
and accused the Government of 'appalling neglect' of the ANZAC Cove site. Mr
Beazley was quoted in the Sunday
Age as saying:
We need to
comprehend how the battleground has changed as a result of the work...Somewhere
in the interpretation centres or in some sort of descriptive plaque, it needs
to be made clear how different this now is from what was originally seen by our
submissions to the inquiry also expressed concern at the transformation of the
landscape as a result of the roadworks.
One submission alleged that:
no specific measures were undertaken to control
erosion or deposition, such as the erection of appropriate barriers
there was no evidence of efforts to revegetate
or rehabilitate the slopes
a number of temporary structures and facilities
were located in previously vegetated and/or ecologically sensitive areas
some permanent parking and traffic management
areas have been placed in the most prominent locations rather than areas with
less visual impact, and
the 'sense of place' has been greatly altered by
the change in the contours and the gradients of the hillside—spoil has been
allowed to spill right down to the beach and the water line.
of officials at the Committee hearing concentrated on two issues—the widening
of the coastal road and the dumping of spoil onto the beach at ANZAC Cove.
These actions had been widely publicised and condemned in the Australian media.
The widening of the road
accusation against Turkish—and Australian—authorities was that the roadworks
were excessive. In particular, it was widely commented in the media that the
widening the coastal road by up to 20 metres was unnecessary.
Chapter 2 noted Mr
Sellars' concerns that the extent of this widening risked
uncovering bone fragments and destroying the trenches dug in the 1915 campaign.
In early April
2005, Mr Jeff Cleverly, a former Australian army officer, described the
roadwork as 'excessive and largely inappropriate'. Mr Cleverly argued that the '20 metre
widening of the road inside ANZAC Cove seems more than the once-a-year heavy
demand requires'. Moreover, he
argued that the real problem of erosion on the beach side of the road remained
Les Carlyon, author of the bestseller, Gallipoli, has similarly criticised the short-term mindset of the
concerned with putting on a show for one day of the year, rather than
preserving the site for 365 days when a lot more than the 20,000 who attend on
Anzac Day tour the battlefields. The last thing needed was a wider road.
The extent of the
road widening was also a point of disagreement between the Australian
Government and the Turkish contractors. On 25 April, the Courier Mail and Herald Sun
reported the comments of Veterans' Affairs Minister, De-Anne Kelly MP: 'they've certainly widened it more than we were
expected, were advised or wanted' (sic).
The articles also noted the Minister's claim that the Turkish Government had
received engineering advice that a bigger excavation was required. However,
this explanation seems to have been made after the work was done, with no
evidence of prior inquiry before it commenced, nor interest sufficient to motivate
the government to intervene politically.
The dumping of soil
On 3 March,
several Australian newspapers published reports claiming the ANZAC Cove beach
had been buried under a pile of excavated soil (see above). Press reports in The Canberra Times and the Courier Mail quoted the following statements
from Mr Bill Gudgeon, spokesman for the political party, New Zealand First:
Recent photos of
parts of the site under excavation are almost unrecognisable, and ANZAC Cove
Beach in some places has actually ceased to be a beach because it is covered in
dirt...I would urge the Turkish Government to monitor the damage construction
is causing to the area to ensure that this designated national park does not
suffer any long-term damage through erosion.
On 6 March, Frank Walker wrote in the Sun
Herald that work had been stopped on the '20-metre-wide' road the previous
week following 'outrage that workers had...dumped tonnes of rubble over the
beach'. The article claimed that 80
metres of the 500-metre-long beach was covered in rubble, which had caused the
rest of the beach to erode rapidly.
On 9 March, Mr
Sellars wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph that the waters of the cove 'are filled with
sediment'. He elaborated on this
claim to the Committee:
[L]ast Tuesday I
was snorkelling in ANZAC Cove and there has been an effect from the roadworks
on the sea area off the beach. Many of the relics in the cove, such as a sunken
barge from the campaign and piles for the piers that were used to land troops
and supplies, and the seabed itself have been covered by a layer of silt coming
from earth dumped directly onto the beach of the cove by the Turkish firm
building the road.
On 10 April, the
theme was continued by Russell Skelton in the Sunday
The removal and
relocation of tonnes of earth has dramatically altered the physical environment
and compromised the heritage integrity of the area. What has actually been lost
may be impossible to know because it lies under tonnes of rubble.
are supported in a submission to the inquiry from the Australasian Institute of
Maritime Archaeology (AIMA):
AIMA was alarmed by the recent damage
to this near-pristine archaeological site. The current works program has done
more than compromise the archaeological integrity of fragile relics situated
along the length of the affected road area. [It] may have impacted on the
archaeological remains within the near-shore areas.
Australian authorities' response to allegations that bones were unearthed
On 7 March 2005, the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon. Robert Hill, was questioned in Parliament on claims that human
remains had been unearthed at the coastal construction site at Gallipoli. The
Minister told the Senate that he would 'have to seek advice' on the issue.
On 8 March 2005, the Australian Foreign Minister, the Hon. Alexander Downer MP, refuted allegations that remains had been found. Mr
Downer explained that Turkish authorities had told the
Australian Ambassador to Turkey, Ms
Dunn, that archaeological work had been carried out prior
to the roadworks commencing, and that no human remains have been unearthed. The authorities had given an assurance
that if any remains were unearthed, 'they would immediately instruct that the
construction of the road be stopped'.
repeated these remarks in Parliament on 10 March, on this occasion citing his
discussions with the Turkish ambassador to Australia earlier in the day.
On 11 March, the
Australian Prime Minister, the Hon. John Howard, defended the advice given by the Turkish
authorities. The Prime Minister stated, 'I'm satisfied by the advice, that it
[the roadworks] is being done properly'.
On 14 March,
Government member Mr Bob Baldwin MP, asked the Foreign Minister for an update
on the roadwork developments at ANZAC Cove. In response, Mr
Downer mentioned the meeting between Mr
Sellars and Ambassador Dunn (see above).
Mr Downer told Parliament that Mr
Sellars had informed the ambassador that one of the bone
fragments had disappeared, and the other could not be relocated. The Foreign Minister
further noted that Ambassador Dunn had instructed Mr Sellars 'to advise us and
of course the Commonwealth War Graves Commission if he does find any further
Sellars mentioned this meeting with the ambassador in his
opening statement before the Committee. He claimed Mr
Downer's account of the conversation was inaccurate—one of
the bones was removed by roadworks employees, the other was 'still in the place
I had seen it at least three days after my meeting with the ambassador'. Mr
Sellars also noted that neither the ambassador, nor any other
official, asked to be shown the remains.
At a press
conference in Istanbul on 26 April 2005, Prime
Minister Howard responded to suggestions that the roadworks had
disturbed bones, saying:
rule out the possibility in doing work on any battlefield site of turning up
bones. I mean remains are still being discovered in Northern France
and in Belgium
almost 90 years...after the Great War.
evidence to the Committee, the Secretary of the DVA noted:
there is always the chance, or risk, of human remains and
bones being found, either in situ or having been washed down from the hills.
Sullivan also cited the following passage from a Commonwealth
War Graves Commission report:
As a result of
public concern regarding the development of work currently being undertaken in
the ANZAC Cove area of the Gallipoli Peninsula,
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission would like to reassure the public that
our representatives have carried out an extensive examination of the area and have found no evidence that human remains
have been disturbed. The Commission would also like to reassure the public
that our cemeteries and memorials remain unaffected by the development work.
He added, 'that, for us, was authoritative'. The
Committee, however, disputes this assertion and is less inclined to accept such
authority given that other evidence indicated that the CWGC's inspection was
The DVA Secretary
also argued that where bone fragments had been uncovered, it was 'probably the
result of erosion, not of a bone having been buried where the road was'. Mr
Sullivan and Mr
Beck both agreed that during the winter months, it is not
uncommon for rain to wash bones, from above the coastal road, down the slope.
The Committee strongly recommends remedial action
before the onset of winter to stabilise and restore the vegetation at ANZAC
Cove. This will ameliorate the scarring caused by the earth works and minimise
Jeremy Newman, the First Assistant Secretary of the America and Europe Division of DFAT, explained to the
Committee that the department had received no evidence that bones had been
uncovered. Mr Newman noted that on two separate days, the Australian
ambassador and senior administrative staff from the embassy had 'inspected the
roadworks and saw no evidence of bones at that time'. There is no evidence that these
inquiries were pressed with any vigour, or any attempt made to reach an
objective and independent conclusion sufficient to satisfy Australian
The Committee also
finds that the process for treating uncovered human remains found at Gallipoli
is unclear. The current practice seems to be to report human remains to the
Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The Commission may either bury them in situ
or, if this is an area of high erosion, they may be moved elsewhere. The basis upon which the Commission
chooses this other location is unclear. The Commission's practice also seems to
vary according to whether there are major bone findings or small fragments. Mr
Sullivan noted that 'the Commission probably does not want to
go and see every small fragment'. He
also suggested that small fragments may be taken to the Commission.
notes that there been recent public discussion that an ossuary should be
established at the ANZAC site. However, without proper identification of bones,
this would mean a common repository for Allied and Turkish remains. The
Committee acknowledges Turkish officials' reservations on the idea of an
The Committee recommends clearer guidelines for the
future management, recovery, reburial or storage of human remains at Gallipoli.
The current arrangements are clearly not understood, and their effectiveness is
Australian authorities' response to claims the landscape had been damaged
Australian Prime Minister and the Minister for Veterans' Affairs have openly
noted that the roadworks went beyond the expectations of Australian
authorities. The evidence before the Committee from Government agencies on this
matter sought to exonerate the Australian Government of any knowledge of, or
involvement in, the scale of the works. The question remains, however, given
the level of official activity which included 17 trips by Australian officials
to Gallipoli in the relevant period, about the adequacy of advice to the
government. More to the point the question concerns the failure of the Minister,
once briefed, to respond with the priority required.
On 23 April 2005, for example, Prime Minister Howard
released the August 2004 letter from Minister Vale to Minister Pepe. The Prime Minister's accompanying media release made
First, 'the letter addressed improvements to the
dawn service site and possible works on an entirely different road on the
peninsula, not work on the ANZAC Cove road'.
Second, 'I feel I should put it on record that
works of the scale that have actually taken place were not sought by the
The Committee believes these statements were designed
to downplay the damage caused by the roadworks. They are also at odds with the Australian
Prime Minister's intervention, which led to the complete suspension of the roadworks
until further research had been done.
On 24 April 2005, the Australian Treasurer, the Hon. Peter Costello
MP, highlighted the difficulty of Australian authorities constantly supervising
a construction project in a foreign country.
Mr Costello noted: 'the Australian Government doesn't control Turkey, we don't control roadworks in Turkey. We have enough trouble controlling roadworks in Australia'. However, the Treasurer also noted that the
Australian Government 'wouldn't want to see any widening [of the road] or any
further works to go on'.
At a press
conference in Istanbul on 26 April 2005, Prime
Minister Howard was asked his impression of the roadworks. In
response, Mr Howard noted: 'just remember this is Turkish property, this
is Turkish land and they do have a large issue of crowd management and safety'.
Australian officials' knowledge of
the widening of the coastal road
An issue of key
interest to the Committee was whether Australian officials had any knowledge of
Turkish authorities' plans to widen the coastal road to the extent that has
Beck told the Committee that he had met with Turkish
authorities, including Turkish National Parks Director, Professor Mustafa Yalinkilic, in early October 2004. There was mention at this
meeting that the coastal road south of ANZAC Cove would be widened from 5.5
metres to seven metres. However,
DVA's main source of information on plans to widen the road came from the
Australian Embassy in Ankara.
Beck emphasised that Australian authorities 'never sought
nor required a widening of the road from 5.5 to seven metres'. Further, he
could not see why it was necessary to widen the road. However, Mr
Beck told the Committee that 'I did not think widening the
road 75 centimetres either side would have any impact on the environment'. For this reason, DVA did not instruct
the embassy to raise any objections. The need to protect the military heritage
at ANZAC Cove does not seem to have been considered at all.
Beck also noted that he first became aware that the road
was to be widened significantly more than 75 centimetres after reading a
February newspaper article by Mr
Sellars. He did add, however, that 'maybe in my visit of 27
February', the section along Brighton Beach had 'quite literally' been widened about one metre
either side. Mr
Sullivan clarified the broader point that 'there was no
engagement with us in respect of the roadworks prior to the press becoming
interested'. More to the point, DVA
was not engaged of its own volition despite full public knowledge of what was
It was only after
these early press reports that DVA first briefed Minister Kelly on the roadworks issue. The Secretary says he assured
the Minister that the road would be in a state to carry the traffic for the
dawn service. He also talked to the Minister about environmental and heritage
protection issues. The detail of
that briefing has not been revealed, and the Government has failed to respond
to a Senate order for the production of those documents. Given this failure to
act, it can only be concluded that the Minister did not consider the protection
of military heritage to be important either.
early press reports, the Department also had a report prepared for the Minister
by Arup Engineering and Consulting Ltd. The purpose of the report was not to
gauge environmental damage, but to assess whether the construction work would
be completed in time for the ANZAC Day services. The Turkish engineers were
solely concerned with the safety of the road and meeting the 20 April 2005 deadline. DVA was concerned not only with this
matter, but also claims of human remains being disturbed and whether the
roadworks were damaging the landscape.
On 8 March 2005, Mr
Beck briefed his Minister's Chief of Staff on the roadworks.
This was the first time he had correspondence with the Minister's office on the
Officials' response to the dumping
Sullivan contested the allegations that rubble had been dumped
on to the beach. He told the Committee that it was fill (dirt), not rocks, that
was 'inappropriately tipped over the side'.
He added, 'fill, in the end, is what has fed that beach forever'. Mr
Beck confirmed that 'there is no granite on the
also disputed claims that the recent excavations had caused an added layer of
silt on relics and the cove seabed (see above). He accepted that the silt was
there, but argued:
I could not see
how you would associate what appeared to be a general silt covering off some
waters off ANZAC Cove with the very limited spill of fill across ANZAC Cove.
Even the worst photograph of the spill...is probably a tonne or two of fill.
that erosion is the principal cause of the silt on the relics and in the Cove
waters. Not only have wind and rain displaced bone fragments from the hills
above the Cove, but also silt which has run into the water.
The Committee is
not convinced of these responses. Clearly, from the photographic evidence,
material has spilled onto the beach and into the sea causing discoloration and
siltation far in excess of natural occurrences. The photographs also show
deposits of fill on the beach that are significantly more than 'a tonne or
finds that bone fragments were unearthed by the coastal roadworks, and that the
military heritage was damaged permanently—with no convincing evidence to the
contrary. Significant sites of the ANZAC campaign between April and December
1915 have been lost forever.
- The Committee
finds that the Australian Government has wanted to improve the roads around
Gallipoli for a long time. Given this desire, the letter from Minister Vale,
and frequent attendance by Australian officials, the Committee finds that the
Australian Government is largely responsible through its own inaction for the
damage caused by the recent road works.
- The Committee
finds that Australian officials did have first-hand knowledge while
construction was ongoing that the road works were causing damage to the
landscape. There was no effort made to investigate allegations that bone
fragments had been uncovered, nor to negotiate with Turkish authorities on the
extent of the road works.
- Concern expressed
by Australian and Turkish people at the nature of the work and the risk of
archaeological damage, resulted in only a short suspension of work late in
February 2005. By then, the damage was done. Work proceeded shortly thereafter.
- The Committee
finds that there was no scope for a process of planning and consultation
between the Turkish and Australian Governments, prior to the construction work
proceeding in late February 2005. There was no systematic oversight of military
heritage issues by Australian authorities. Turkey's National Parks Directorate
had employed three consultants to undertake a survey of the area. It lasted
only 15 minutes and was performed after the excavations.
- The Committee
finds that the process for treating uncovered human remains at Gallipoli is
unclear. It is unclear whether the CWGC is to bury the bones in situ, or
transfer them to another site. It is also unclear whether the Commission needs
to be informed of small bone fragment findings, and whether small fragments may
be taken to the Commission in person.
- The Committee
finds that the Australian Government was 'asleep at the wheel' in the months
prior to the road works commencing in late February 2005. It placed too much
faith in the assurances of Turkish officials and the Commonwealth War Graves
Commission. It responded almost two months after the damage was done, despite
the knowledge of Australian officials that construction was affecting the site.
- Advice to the Australian
Government on the damage which occurred in late February 2005, was not properly
heeded and prompted no serious intervention until the Prime Minister's visit on
26 April 2005. It was not until then that work was fully suspended by the
Government of Turkey.
- The Government,
by its failure to safeguard the ANZAC Cove site and its Australian military
heritage, defaulted on its responsibility to the Australian people, particularly
the expectations of veterans.
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