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Program 3.1: War Graves and Commemorations

Description

Acknowledge and commemorate the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served Australia and its allies in wars, conflicts and peace operations.

Delivery

  • Lead and manage the Anzac Centenary and the Century of Service 2014–18 through the development and delivery of national and international commemorative services, providing support and funding for community initiatives, and supporting community awareness and preservation of Australia's wartime and service heritage and veterans' experiences.
  • Maintain, construct and refurbish war graves and post war commemorations within war cemeteries, gardens of remembrance, cemeteries and crematoria in Australia and Papua New Guinea; process claims for and provide official post-war commemorations; and provide and maintain national memorials overseas.

Anzac Centenary Program

Centenary of the First World War

In July 2016, DVA successfully delivered a number of centenary commemorative services at Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, and the 1st Australian Division Memorial, Pozieres, on the Western Front. Very hot weather greeted the 2,411 attendees at Pheasant Wood, while 200 official guests attended the V.C. Corner service and 1,422 attended the Pozieres service, both of which were broadcast live to Australia by the ABC. The Minister for Veterans' Affairs, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, and the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell DSC AM, attended both services.

Throughout 2016–17, the Department planned for the service commemorating the centenary of the Battle of Polygon Wood, which will be held on 26 September 2017 at the 5th Australian Division Memorial, Buttes New British Cemetery, Zonnebeke, Belgium. Public registration for attendance passes for this commemoration opened on 3 February 2017. Due to limited access to the site, infrastructure for the service will be kept to a minimum.

Throughout 2016–17, the Department also prepared for the centenary commemorations for the Battle of Beersheba, Sinai–Palestine campaign, to be held in Be'er Sheva, Israel, in October 2017. Public registration for attendance passes for this commemoration opened on 10 February 2017 and by 11 April 2017 numbers had reached the safe site capacity. The capacity of the site is limited by its small size and number of safe egress routes. Infrastructure is limited by restrictions on construction in the Beersheba War Cemetery, to ensure that the graves of those in the cemetery are respected. As a result, the number of places available cannot be increased.

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Century of Service program

During 2016–17, the Century of Service program commemorated a number of anniversaries of battles and events of particular significance to the Australian community.

The 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan was commemorated with a service at the Vietnam Forces National Memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra. A government-hosted reception was held at Parliament House the night before the service. DVA assisted approximately 150 veterans and their guests to attend commemorative activities in Canberra and Brisbane.

The 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore was commemorated at the national Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat. Sixteen veterans and their carers were assisted with travel and accommodation to attend the national service. The service was followed by a luncheon reception attended by the veterans, their carers and official guests.

In February 2017, the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), unveiled a statue dedicated to the mothers and families of Australians killed in action from all wars and conflicts in the Garden of the Grieving Mother in Ballarat. The garden and statue were funded under the Century of Service program.

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Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience

From its opening in Wodonga in September 2015 to its final closing in Sydney in April 2017, the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience was one of the flagship community events of Australia's commemoration of the Anzac Centenary period. The travelling exhibition was presented by the Australian Government, including DVA, the Australian War Memorial and the ADF, and was proudly supported by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Telstra Corporation.

The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience took 11 months to design and build and won the 2016 Australian Event Awards best technical achievement or innovation award.

Over 368,000 Australians, including 49,707 schoolchildren, visited the exhibition as it travelled to 23 locations across Australia, including Albury-Wodonga, Launceston, Hobart, Ballarat, Bendigo, Wollongong, Melbourne, Adelaide, Tamworth, Toowoomba, Brisbane, Mackay, Cairns, Townsville, Darwin, Port Augusta, Perth, Bunbury, Kalgoorlie, Geelong, Orange, Newcastle and Sydney.

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Anzac Day services in France

DVA successfully delivered an Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, and a later Anzac Day service at the Digger Memorial, Bullecourt. The Dawn Service at Villers-Bretonneux was broadcast live to Australia by the ABC. In 2017, 2,133 visitors endured the chilly morning to attend the Anzac Day Dawn Service, and 938 attended the Digger Memorial service later in the day.

Local French authorities provided police, security, medical and first aid facilities for visitors at the site. The Australian Government is grateful for the assistance of our French hosts. The service in France was attended by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, and the Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies AO CSC.

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Commemorative missions

In 2016–17, veterans of the Korean War returned to the battlefields in Korea for the 65th anniversaries of the battles of Kapyong and Maryang San. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the ADF provided significant support.

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Community involvement and awareness

In 2016–17, DVA continued to engage the general community, teachers and students on Australian wartime history and raise awareness and appreciation of the service and sacrifice of our servicemen and servicewomen in war, conflicts and peace operations. During the year, DVA produced a range of educational resources and awareness-raising information and materials and activities, including commemorative war history websites, a calendar, commemorative posters, a school competition and oral histories. DVA also supported Australian War Memorial outreach initiatives.

The Anzac Portal website continues to be a highly successful means of connecting with the community. The Anzac Portal holds a wide range of online publications, links to ebooks, education and history resources, and event information. Information on the Anzac Centenary, veterans' stories and curriculum units are all innovative additions to the portal. The portal now incorporates what were previously eight individual military conflict history websites.

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Saluting Their Service grants

The Saluting Their Service grants support projects and activities that directly commemorate Australia's servicemen and servicewomen in wars, conflicts and peace operations, and are provided to ESOs, local government authorities, museums and schools.

There were two categories of grants in 2016–17: Major Commemorative Grants and Community Commemorative Grants. Major Commemorative Grants are available for projects with significance at the national, state or territory level and Community Commemorative Grants are available for small projects that are locally significant.

In 2016–17, 11 Major Commemorative Grants were approved to the value of $221,749; and 183 Community Commemorative Grants were approved to the value of $449,492.

A list of approved grants can be found on the DVA website, www.dva.gov.au.

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Commemorating our war dead and those who have died as a result of war

New commemorations

The Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) completed 2,772 new official commemorations. These consisted of 266 interments in crematoriums, 73 commemorations in lawn cemeteries, the construction of 256 monumental graves and the placement of 2,177 plaques in OAWG gardens of remembrance. A further 130 offers of official commemoration were declined. Table 31 details post-war commemoration activity.

The number of war graves maintained during 2016–17 increased after the Commonwealth War Graves Commission accepted commemoration for 83 Australians who died in Australia during the period 1914–21 or 1939–47 who had not been previously officially commemorated as war dead of the two world wars. These cases were brought to the OAWG's attention by members of the public and researchers and, after investigation, were accepted as being eligible for commemoration.

Table 31—Post-war commemoration activity 2012–13 to 2016–17
  2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17
Notification of eligibility for commemoration 4,811 3,805 3,389 3,106 2,935
Acceptance by families 4,238 3,142 2,684 2,561 2,369
Completed memorials 4,903 4,394 3,418 2,951 2,772

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Cemetery and memorial information

Table 32 shows the extent of community contact with the OAWG over the past five years in relation to the quality of the work undertaken or advice provided.

Table 32—Contacts relating to quality of OAWG services 2012–13 to 2016–17
  2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17
Letters and emails 325 287 454 305 268
Telephone calls 52 73 84 49 64
Total 377 360 538 354 332

OAWG = Office of Australian War Graves

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