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About the Office of Australian War Graves

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There are over 66,000 Australian war dead in identified graves around the world and another 35,000 commemorated on Memorials to the Missing. In Australia, there are over 12,000 war dead buried in war and civil cemeteries, over 1,000 named on Memorials to the Missing, and some commemorated in Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) Gardens of Remembrance.

The OAWG maintains war cemeteries and individual war graves in Australia and the region, commemorates eligible veterans who died post-war and whose deaths were caused by their war service and builds and maintains national memorials overseas.


The role of the Office of Australian War Graves

The OAWG has three roles:

  1. to act as an agent of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) to maintain war cemeteries and memorials and individual war graves (in Australia and the region) for members of the Commonwealth forces, who died during the First and Second World Wars
  2. to commemorate eligible veterans who died post-war and whose deaths were caused by their war service
  3. to build and maintain official Australian memorials overseas.

Principles of official commemoration

The official commemoration of Australia’s war and post-war dead are governed under principles of equality and uniformity. These principles, together with the principle of commemoration in perpetuity, underpin the purpose and functions of the CWGC and OAWG. In practical terms the principles mean:

  • each of our war dead and post-war dead is commemorated individually and once only, by name, on either a grave headstone, or a plaque, or an inscription on a memorial
  • the headstones, plaques and memorials are maintained in perpetuity
  • the headstones, plaques, and memorial inscriptions are uniform
  • there is no distinction in style of commemoration made on the basis of military rank, civil rank or wealth of the veteran or his/her family.

The distinctive, orderly rows of matching headstones and plaques, which characterise CWGC cemeteries in 150 countries around the world, adhere to principles of equality, uniformity and commemoration in perpetuity.

More information about principles of official commemoration

Post-war commemorations

Veterans who die after a war or conflict may be officially commemorated, just as their mates who died during a war or conflict are commemorated, as long as they meet certain criteria.

At the choice of the next-of-kin, these commemorations may be either at the site of the veteran's remains in cemeteries or crematoria throughout Australia or in an OAWG Garden of Remembrance. You can access more information about eligibility for post war commemorations.

Maintenance of war graves and memorials

All Australian war graves and Memorials to the Missing, as well as other official commemorations, are regularly maintained and will continue to be maintained in perpetuity to CWGC standards.

You can find out more about the OAWG’s role in maintaining war graves and memorials within Australia and overseas.

How to search for a Commonwealth grave or memorial

If you are searching for the grave or memorial for a particular serviceman or woman, gather all the information you can about them and try the following avenues of enquiry.

First and Second World Wars

You can find individual Commonwealth (including Australian) war dead graves or commemorations from the First World War and the Second World War (in Australia or overseas) through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

You can also access complete records of the graves, listings on Memorials to the Missing and commemorations to all individual Australian war and post-war dead from the First and Second World Wars by contacting OAWG.

You can retrieve details of Australians who died while on active service with Australian and Allied forces through the Roll of Honour and Commemorative Roll available on the Australian War Memorial website.

War Memorial or Cemetery registers

Registers of First and Second World War cemeteries and Memorials to the Missing, outside and within Australia, are available at every CWGC cemetery and on the CWGC website.

The CWGC Debt of Honour Register records the 1,700,000 members of the Commonwealth forces, including Australians, who died during the First and Second World Wars. It also details 67,000 Commonwealth civilians who died due to enemy action in the Second World War.

Post-Second World War

In addition to information about Commonwealth war dead from the First and Second World Wars, OAWG holds records of:

  • listings on Memorials to the Missing
  • commemorations of individual Australian war dead since the Second World War
  • Australian post-war dead.

The minimum information we need to search for a grave or commemoration is the person's name and the conflict in which they served. More information can speed up the process, such as:

  • service (navy, army or air force)
  • service number
  • date and place of death.
  • DVA file number
  • full name and address at time of death.

The OAWG can only give out information regarding the site of the official commemoration of a veteran, not the place of burial or the place ashes may have been scattered if the veteran has been privately commemorated by the family.

The OAWG Gardens of Remembrance within Australia also keep complete registers. You can find more information about gardens of remembrance.

You can contact OAWG by email or phone (Freecall 133 254 in cities or 1800 555 254 for regional callers). You can also find state and overseas contact details on OAWG contact details page.

How to obtain photos of graves and memorials

Visiting the grave of a loved one can be an important part of grieving. However, if you cannot visit a grave or commemoration site, OAWG can provide relatives, free of charge, a photo of a grave or memorial.

To arrange a photograph of a grave or memorial through OAWG you need to complete and return an application form.

Non-relatives of the deceased can request a photo of a Commonwealth grave or memorial through The War Graves Photographic Project website. This service incurs a fee.

How long before the photograph is delivered?

Photograph delivery depends on the location of the grave or memorial. Photographs of graves or memorials overseas or in remote locations (outside capital cities) may take up to six months for delivery.

If the site is overseas, the season can also affect the time of delivery, for example, OAWG officer may wait until spring to take the photograph rather than providing a photo of a snow-covered grave.

Permission to use the service badge

All personnel who served in the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army or the Royal Australian Air Force are entitled to have their Service badge inscribed on their private memorial.  Personnel who served in the Merchant Navy are entitled to an Australian Merchant Navy badge.

However, for copyright reasons, permission to inscribe a badge must first be obtained from OAWG.

Other badges

Written requests for permission to use Australian badges or emblems other than those of the Navy, Army and Air Force, for example the badge of a particular Corps such as the Artillery, in any publication (including on a memorial) should be directed to the Department of Defence: 

Defence Community Organisation (DCO)
DGPERS-A
R8-9-026
Russell Offices
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Permission to use emblems of foreign services should be sought from the relevant Embassy or High Commission.

Required information

Before it can grant permission, OAWG requires the following:

  • full name
  • service number
  • service (navy, army, air force, merchant navy) - if not known, please contact the Department of Defence to determine this information. 

Proof of Service must accompany the request, such as:

  • a copy of the veteran's discharge certificate
  • a copy of the veteran's paybook
  • a printout from the relevant online Nominal Roll
  • supporting documentation from the relevant Defence Office.

How to apply

To apply for permission:

Mail, fax or email your letter or application form to:

Office of Australian War Graves
GPO Box 9998
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Fax: 02 6289 6571
Email: War graves

Permission

Once an application with all the required information is received, OAWG forwards a letter of permission via standard post, fax or email. Please note that all arrangements and costs associated with the provision of the private memorial are the responsibility of the next-of-kin or the Executor.

Visiting a war cemetery or memorial

Visitor information about First and Second World War war cemeteries and Memorials to the Missing can be found on the CWGC website. Visitor information is also available on this website for:

  • war memorials (Link to memorials)
  • Gardens of Remembrance. (Link to Gardens of Remembrance)

If you find battlefield remains

Certain battlefield areas, such as the Gallipoli Peninsula, represent a vast burial ground and should be respected as such. Should you find a bone fragment, the policy is to rebury it at the site. Should you discover more significant remains, leave them alone and contact CWGC straight away.

Making a donation to the Office of Australian War Graves

In response to ongoing requests, OAWG gratefully accepts donations to support the continuing maintenance of war graves, post-war official commemorations and official memorials. All donations can be made for a specified purpose and are formally receipted and acknowledged.

Please forward donations to:

The Office of Australian War Graves
GPO Box 9998
CANBERRA ACT 2601

Factsheets and publications

Factsheets

Publications

Publications from OAWG, including brochures, booklets, audio guides, CD ROMs and DVDs are available.

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