Then, now and in perpetuity

The Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) is the Australian Government’s agent of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and is responsible for maintaining war cemeteries and individual war graves within Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. 

The OAWG is also responsible for the provision of official commemorations for eligible veterans who have died post-war and whose deaths are accepted as being linked to their war service.

The eligibility criteria for post-war official commemoration provided by the Australian Government applies to someone:

  • who is a Victoria Cross recipient;
  • in receipt of a Totally and Permanently Incapacitated pension at the time of death and where the veteran has seen service in a war or conflict;
  • in receipt of an Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA) and where the veteran has seen service in a war or conflict;
  • in receipt of a Temporary Special Rate pension (TSR) or Intermediate Rate pension (INT) and where the veteran has seen service in a war or conflict;
  • who is a multiple amputee on Section 27.1 maximum pension rate;
  • who is an ex-prisoner of war; or
  • whose death has subsequently been accepted by the Repatriation Commission as being due to their war service.

The OAWG can be made aware of a deceased veteran’s eligibility for an official commemoration via two methods: 

  • If the veteran was a client of DVA and meets the eligibility criteria provided above, a DVA delegate will advise the Director War Graves once next of kin / a family member has notified DVA. 
  • If the veteran was not a client of DVA the next of kin / a family member makes contact with DVA’s Victoria Deputy Commissioner who will assess whether the veteran’s death was war-caused. Write to:
    • Victoria Deputy Commissioner, Department of Veterans' Affairs, GPO Box 9998, Brisbane QLD 4001; or
    • email PRIMARY.CLAIMS [at] dva.gov.au  

requesting that the death be investigated and a determination made. A copy of the death certificate and service record will also need to be supplied.

The Director War Graves will be notified by the DVA delegate when an assessment has been accepted, and will then write to the veteran’s spouse, next of kin / family to offer an official commemoration. 

The different types of commemoration available are:

  • Memorial Plaque in a Garden of Remembrance; 
  • Placement of ashes – plaque on a niche wall or in a garden;
  • Burial in a cemetery – plaque on a concrete beam or plinth in a lawn area; or
  • Burial in a cemetery – monumental.

For eligible post-war dead, the Government meets the cost of providing the physical commemoration, so long as: 

  • the cemetery authority or trust governing the particular cemetery agrees; and 
  • the next of kin / family member or burial licence-holder complies with and pays for any additional undertakings, including the initial payment and renewal of grave plot tenure fees. 

An official commemoration may be located in a civil cemetery, lawn cemetery, ashes placement, niche plaque or at one of the 10 Australian Government Gardens of Remembrance located around Australia, in each state and territory capital as well as Launceston and Townsville.

More than two-thirds of official commemorations of both war dead and post-war dead within Australia are in the form of a plaque at a Garden of Remembrance. These are tranquil, green sanctuaries where individual plaques are placed on walls, amid flowers and plants that thrive in the area. Shelters and quiet places to sit encourage loved ones and friends to stay to reflect and remember. Eligible veterans are commemorated in the company of those with whom they served, and in a place of beauty and peace that is under constant care.

Not all veterans or their families take up an offer of official commemoration and these choices and decisions remain with them. Of the more than two million Australians who have served our nation in our defence force since Federation, more than 1.6 million are not eligible for official commemoration. The responsibility for their commemoration rests with their families. 

However, for those veterans who are not eligible for official commemoration, the OAWG can provide permission to incorporate the relevant service emblem on a privately arranged plaque or headstone.

If you are wondering about eligibility for a post-war commemoration, have a look at the OAWG’s Being prepared page on the DVA website or call us on 1800 VETERAN (1800 838 372). 

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Cemetery garden with flowers in foreground

NSW Garden of Remembrance, Rookwood General Cemetery, Sydney

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