Commemorating our post-war dead
It has been Australian policy since 1922 to extend official commemoration to eligible post-war deaths. There are more than 300,000 official post-war commemorations at cemeteries, crematoria and Gardens of Remembrance in Australia.
The principles of equal, uniform, permanent and individual commemoration that govern official commemoration of our war dead also apply to post-war or conflict commemorations.
In order to receive official commemoration, it must firstly be proven that the deceased engaged in war, conflict or operational service (including peacekeeping service). The cause of death related to that service as determined by the Repatriation Commission or Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission must also be proven. Normally a decision on eligibility for official commemoration is made at the same time as the eligibility of a veteran's dependants for benefits such as a war widow's pension is determined.
Certain veterans are automatically eligible if they have war or operational service histories, including:
- a veteran in receipt of a Special Rate (T&PI) Pension or an Extreme Disablement Adjustment (EDA), a Temporary Special Rate Pension (TSR) or an Intermediate Rate Pension (INT) at the time of death and where the veteran has seen service in a war or conflict
- a veteran who is a multiple amputee as defined in Section 27.1 of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) on maximum pension rate where service in a war or conflict has been proven
- an ex-prisoner of war
- a Victoria Cross recipient.
A claim can only be made by writing to the DVA, asking that the veteran's death be accepted as war-caused or a service death arising from warlike or non-warlike service and providing reasons for that claim.
Where a veteran has no dependants, the next-of-kin, or an interested person, should apply in writing to their nearest state DVA office asking for DVA to investigate whether or not the veteran's death was war-related. If DVA determines it was, official commemoration will be provided.
Factsheets about eligibility
Style of commemoration
The family of a veteran can choose whether the official commemoration, in the form of a memorial plaque, will be either:
- with the veteran's physical remains at the gravesite or crematorium
- in one of the specially created Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) Gardens of Remembrance throughout Australia.
Post-war graves at civil cemeteries may be re-opened later to allow for a further burial and second plaque, depending upon the particular cemetery's regulations. The OAWG has no objection, provided the official plaque and memorial are not altered.
Commemoration in cemeteries or crematoria
Commemoration at a cemetery or crematorium is the oldest form of post-war official commemoration. Across Australia there are around 95,328 official memorials, each marking the resting place of an eligible veteran. The memorial inscription for eligible veterans is identical to that for war dead.
In a general cemetery, where a full monument is provided, OAWG provides and maintains grave kerbing, infill and a headstone with the bronze plaque. The kerbing and headstone are constructed of concrete with a rendered finish. Where a general cemetery does not allow the placement of kerbing, only a headstone and plaque is provided according to the individual cemetery regulations. In order to provide official commemoration the grave must be completely bare of any permanent headstone, plaque or kerbing.
In lawn cemeteries, OAWG abides by the regulations of the cemetery involved. In all cases, where permitted, OAWG provides and maintains the bronze plaque. If required by the cemetery authorities, a headstone base is also provided.
At a crematorium, OAWG can arrange for the placement of ashes in a wall niche or a garden setting and provides and maintains the bronze plaque. Note that placing ashes in a garden setting may require part contribution by the family towards the cost.
Official commemoration at a crematorium is not possible if the ashes are to be scattered or retained by the family. A memorial in a Garden of Remembrance is the best option in this case.
If a grave or lawn memorial is chosen, allow six months for its completion by OAWG. Cremation memorials are normally completed within four months.
The principles of official commemoration apply to all commemorations of Australian war dead and post-war dead. Equality and uniformity, regardless of rank, creed, civil or military status is at the heart of official commemoration. This is why the memorial inscriptions all contain the same details and why the headstones are of a similar style.
If the style of memorial which OAWG can provide does not satisfy the family's requirements, the veteran can be commemorated in one of our Garden of Remembrance and the family will be granted permission to use the appropriate service emblem on their private memorial at the resting place.
Usually, in Australia, one fee is paid to a cemetery or crematorium at the time of purchase of the burial plot or niche. However, some cemetery and crematorium authorities sell only a limited renewable tenure, where, after an initial period (normally 25-50 years from the date of purchase) the lease needs to be renewed for the burial plot or niche to be kept by the family. Renewal of tenure is the sole responsibility of the family. The family must arrange a further contract and pay for it when it falls due.
All sites of official commemorations for war dead and all Gardens of Remembrance are held outright, or the tenure is paid by OAWG.