Section 5: Remembering and honouring: memorials and heritage

Centenary of Anzac

With the approach of the centenary of the First World War and in particular the 100th anniversary of the landing of the ANZACs at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, Prime Minister Rudd announced in 2010 the creation of a National Commission on the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary on Anzac Day. The Commission, which included former Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke, was asked to advise the Government on appropriate ways for Australia to commemorate the centenary. The Commission delivered its report on 28 March 2011. The Government’s initial response is here.

The Commission recommended that a Centenary Advisory Board be established and in July 2011 Prime Minister Gillard announced that the Board would be chaired by former Chief of the Defence Force Angus Houston. On 12 October 2011 the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of Anzac announced the members of the Board in a statement to the House of Representatives. The Anzac Centenary website can be found here.

On 7 March 2014 the Minister announced the termination of the Centenary Advisory Board and its replacement with the Anzac Centenary Public Fund Board.

On 19 February 2013 the Prime Minister and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of Anzac announced the Anzac Centenary Local Grants program. This provided funding for communities to commemorate the centenary with region-specific activities. Funding was initially set at $100,000 per electorate but was subsequently increased to $125,000.

Further information about the local grants program can be found on the Anzac Centenary website.


The concept of a ballot in allocating places for the 2015 Anzac Day service at Gallipoli was first raised in a media release by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs on 26 September 2012. Noting the anticipated level of demand and the difficult local terrain, the Minister suggested a ballot as a fair way of distributing access:

The commemorative site is surrounded by thick scrub, steep terrain and bounded by the Aegean Sea. There are also heritage and conservation measures in place to preserve and protect the battlefields meaning the area cannot be expanded. Due to these geographic and safety constraints, a limit of 10,000 public places exist for the Dawn Service. These places will be shared between Australia and New Zealand – with Australia to be allocated about 80 per cent of the total.

Subsequently, the Minister announced the Government’s approach to the ballot:

  • surviving widows of Australian First World War veterans will be given priority.
  • five per cent of tickets (400 double passes) will be available to direct descendants of Gallipoli veterans, with preference given for sons and daughters of Gallipoli veterans.
  • there will be 400 double passes for Australian veterans from other conflicts who have served overseas.
  • there will be 400 places for school students and their chaperones.

The remaining places (3,000 double passes) were available to all Australians and were distributed under the following criteria:

  • applicants must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident of Australia to register, but do not need to be living in Australia at the time of registration.
  • applicants must be a minimum of 18 years of age on, or before, 25 April 2015 to register.
  • applicants can only register once. All passes will be issued as double passes—the accompanying pass holder does not need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident of Australia. No additional passes will be provided to an individual who is successful in the ballot. Pass holders must make all arrangements for their travel and cover all costs including flights, accommodation, transport and travel insurance, etc.

The ballot opened in mid-November 2013 and closed on 31 January 2014 with more than 50,000 applications. On 3 April 2014 the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs announced that the outcome of the ballot had been determined and that applicants would be informed by email and letter by 25 April 2014.  Passes were sent to those people who were successful in the ballot process.

The maximum attendance figure of 10,500 (8,000 for Australia, 2,000 for New Zealand and 500 VIP guests) was based on a consultant’s report from Providence Consulting Group, a company ‘skilled in best use of real estate and the safe carrying capacity of a site’ and then subsequently confirmed in consultation with the Government of Turkey.

The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has delivered three statements on the Centenary of Anzac which provide a summary of most aspects of the centenary. The most recent statement can be found here.

The Minister also announced that there would be an additional ceremony on 6 August 2015 to commemorate the Battle of Lone Pine.

Further commemorations at Lone Pine were announced by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs on 28 February 2016.

On 25 March 2015 the Prime Minister launched the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience, a travelling exhibition that tells the story of Australia’s involvement in the First World War and subsequent conflicts.

Links to sites with details of commemorative ceremonies

The following sites contain extensive information about commemorative activities:

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day (11 November) is the anniversary of the armistice which ended the First World War (1914–18). It is set aside as a day to remember the sacrifice of those who have died for Australia in all wars and conflicts. It was originally known as Armistice Day.

For a history of how Armistice Day became Remembrance Day see Jennifer Amess, ‘A day of remembrance: 11 November’, Sabretache, vol. 24, April–June 1983, pp. 25–26.

The Flanders poppy (a bright red poppy) has been part of Armistice or Remembrance Day since the early 1920s. Wearing a red poppy is a sign of remembrance for the servicemen and women who died in war.

For further information see the Background Note, ‘Remembrance Day 2008—the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I’, published by the Parliamentary Library in November 2008.

The Simpson Prize

The Simpson Prize honours John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the famous stretcher bearer who used a donkey to transport wounded men down the steep slopes above Anzac Cove and was killed by machine gun fire while doing so. It encourages school students to consider what Anzac Day means to them and to Australia through writing an essay. The list of 2016 prize winners was announced on 15 March 2016.

War memorials and cemeteries overseas

More than 90,000 Australians who fought in the First and Second World Wars are buried overseas. Australia commemorates each of these war dead through either a memorial headstone at a gravesite, an inscription on a Memorial to the Missing (if the service person has no known grave), or a memorial plaque at a crematorium. Their names are also inscribed on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Australia’s war dead from the two world wars are buried in more than 80 countries, in close to 800 cemeteries worldwide. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs website contains a list of First and Second World War cemeteries with, for each cemetery, a roll of those service personnel who are buried there.

The electronic version of this publication contains two maps which plot the geographic location of the main Australian overseas cemeteries, Memorials to the Missing, and war (or ‘battle’) memorials, and provide some brief information on each site.

Kevin Blackburn discusses the restored Changi Murals originally created in a chapel (St Luke’s) within the huge prisoner of war camp established in the Changi area by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in February 1942. Between September 1942 and May 1943 five near life-size murals of scenes from the New Testament were painted by a British prisoner, Stanley Warren, on two of the chapel’s walls.

The Hellfire Pass Memorial in Thailand is dedicated to those Australian and other allied prisoners of war (POWs) and Asian labourers who suffered and died at Hellfire Pass (Burma-Thailand Railway) and elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region during the Second World War. It was officially opened on 24 April 1998 by Prime Minister John Howard and the Prime Minister of Thailand, Chuan Leekpai.

The Australian War Memorial in London was dedicated on the morning of 11 November 2003 by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister John Howard, in the presence of The Duke of Kent, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and a party of 27 Australian Second World War veterans. The Memorial features a long, curving wall of West Australian green granite, reflecting the sweep of the Australian landscape. Inscribed on the wall are the names of many of the battle sites where Australian and British military personnel fought, superimposed upon the names of thousands of home towns of Australian men and women who served during the two world wars. The periodic flow of water across the wall highlights these names and is designed to evoke memories of the suffering and loss felt by all.

The Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in northern France was unveiled on 22 July 1938 by King George VI. It lies within the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery and was erected to commemorate all Australian soldiers who fought in France and Belgium during the First World War, and their dead, especially those with no known grave. The servicemen named on the memorial were Australians who died ‘in the battlefields of the Somme, Arras, the German advance of 1918 and the Advance to Victory’.

The Park of the Australian Soldier at Be’er Sheva in Israel, commemorating the charge of the Australian Mounted Division’s 4th Brigade against Turkish positions at Beersheba (as it was then called) on 31 October 1917, was dedicated in Israel in April 2008.

The website of the Office of Australian War Graves contains links to overseas memorials, with information on current projects overseas and in Australia.

Ernest Murray—New South Wales
Ernest Murray

Ernest Murray was born in Surry Hills, New South Wales on 1 December 1880 before he moved with his family to Canberra in 1909. He was working as a mechanic at Duntroon when he enlisted in the AIF on 27 August 1914. He married Ruby Monaghan the following month before embarking HMAT Afric on 18 October 1914. As part of the 1st Field Company Engineers he landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and kept a diary throughout the campaign recording such events as the initial landings and the attack on Lone Pine in early August.

After departing Gallipoli in December 1915, he transferred to the 14th Field Company Engineers and served on the Western Front at Fromelles, Flers, Beaumetz, Bullecourt, Polygon Wood and Westhoek. He received the Military Medal for his actions in September 1917 at Polygon Wood and subsequently received a Bar to this Military Medal for further bravery the following month when he rescued wounded soldiers near Westhoek. He himself was wounded in January 1918 through exposure to mustard gas, and the impact of this would affect his health for the rest of his life.

Murray returned to Canberra after the war and settled as a farmer on a property titled ‘Kurrumbene’, which was located in the current suburbs of Narrabundah and Fyshwick. Three of his sons also went on to serve in the Second World War. Murray died of leukaemia on 28 July 1935 at Randwick military hospital in Sydney at 54 years of age.


‘Ernest Murray’, ACT Memorial website, accessed 25 March 2015.

M Hall, ‘Canberra’s First Anzac’, Canberra Times, 25 April 2009, p. 3.

‘Ernest Murray’, The AIF Project, website, accessed 25 March 2015.

War memorials in Australia

In addition to the Australian War Memorial (opened on 11 November 1941), there are a number of other sources of information about war memorials in Australia:

In ‘War Memorials in the Australian landscape’, (Wartime, summer 1998) Ken Inglis describes the importance of local memorials to Australian communities. See also, K Inglis, Sacred Places: war memorials in the Australian landscape, Melbourne University Publishing, Carlton, 2008.

The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial located in Ballarat, Victoria, honours more than 35,000 Australians who were held prisoner during the Boer War, the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War.

The National Capital Authority’s website has information about the memorials lining Anzac Parade in Canberra. New memorials planned for positions on or near Anzac Parade are: the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial, the site of which was dedicated on 29 November 2007, with the winning design announced on 19 December 2008; the Boer War Memorial the site of which was dedicated on 31 May 2008; and twin memorials to the First and Second World Wars at the opposite end of Anzac Parade to the Australian War Memorial. The design chosen for the twin memorials to the First and Second World Wars has aroused some controversy and in February 2012 it was announced that the location was to be moved back from Rond Terrace on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin to Anzac Parade.

The Queensland Anzac Day Commemoration Committee’s website has the history, descriptions and photographs of the state war memorials in each state capital. State and city websites include those of Western Australia, Queensland (and Brisbane City), and New South Wales (including the Cenotaph and Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park and Anzac Memorial history).

The Australian-American Memorial was dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 February 1954. It stands 73 metres high in the forecourt of Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey Square at the Department of Defence Offices, Russell, in Canberra. It is one of the city’s most prominent and distinctive landmarks. The press release from Senator Robert Hill on the 50th anniversary of its unveiling contains further details.

Remembrance Driveway, which runs between Sydney and Canberra, was suggested by the Garden Club of Australia. Over fifty groves have been planted alongside the Hume and Federal Highways. The Driveway is a memorial to those who served in the Second World War and subsequent wars. The first of its trees—at Macquarie Place in Sydney (a plane tree), and the War Memorial in Canberra (a snow gum)—were planted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954. It was intended to have a variety of trees, each selected for its suitability to local soil and climatic conditions. Each of the trees honours a serviceman or woman and some bear a plaque with his or her name. During the 1990s the Remembrance Driveway Committee and the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority worked together to develop ‘Victoria Cross’ rest areas along the highway—Gordon VC, Mackay VC, Kingsbury VC, Chowne VC, Derrick VC, French VC, Kibby VC, Edmondson VC, Wheatley VC and Gurney VC.

The Australian War Memorial maintains a program of travelling exhibitions.

Gallipoli websites

Gallipoli and the Anzacs, a site hosted by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, contains a range of educational resources.

Western Front

The Office of Australian War Graves (within the DVA) has stepped up activities to enhance commemoration of Australian service in France and Belgium. In response to an increasing number of visitors to the battlefields and war cemeteries, eighteen interpretive panels have been erected in France and two in Belgium to explain the significance of each battle site. In 2009 the Australian Government announced plans for an Anzac Trail to commemorate the achievements of Australians on the Western Front, and a dedicated gallery on a website commemorating Australia’s wartime heritage is now available.

The Australian Corps Memorial Park at Le Hamel—one of several memorials on the Western Front—was restored in 2008 and re-dedicated by the Governor-General on 8 November 2008.

A new interpretive centre, the Sir John Monash Centre will open at the Australian National Memorial site near Villers-Bretonneux in April 2018.

Remains of war dead

Bodies of service personnel are often discovered on old battlefields or in wrecked ships or aircraft. When such discoveries are made, the standard practice is to inter bodies in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery.


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