More than 103 000 Australians have died in war. Largely unseen, another 304 000 have later died as a result of their war service. Commemorating them in perpetuity is the responsibility of the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG), which continues to implement the program initiated by the Australian Government in 1922.
Australian war dead lie in 82 countries around the world. There are over 66 000 Australian war dead in identified graves. Another 35 000 whose remains were never found, or who lie in unidentified graves, or whose remains were cremated, are commemorated on Memorials to the Missing. In Australia itself there are over 12 000 war dead buried in hundreds of war and civil cemeteries, with over 1000 named on Memorials to the Missing, and some commemorated in OAWG Gardens of Remembrance.
The OAWG supports the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the commemoration of the war dead of the world wars. On the Commission’s behalf, OAWG maintains 75 war cemeteries and plots in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Large war cemeteries, similar to those in France and Belgium, are located in all state capitals in Australia. Where families have chosen to do so, these cemeteries have also been used to commemorate our war dead from the war in Afghanistan.
The official commemoration of those who have died post-war is a uniquely Australian program, not seen anywhere else in the world. These commemorations are provided in local community cemeteries and crematoria or in the OAWG Gardens of Remembrance, which are located in each capital city as well as in Launceston and Townsville.
Our immaculately maintained War Cemeteries and Gardens of Remembrance are places of silent contemplation of sacrifice and loss. These ‘silent cities of the dead’, most visited on Anzac Day, Father’s Day and Christmas Day, remain a powerful demonstration of our nation’s commitment that ‘we will remember them’.