Statement on Ex Service Personnel Memorials

April 18, 2016 0 comments

The Case of Sgt Sydney Alexander James Smith

The grave of Sgt Sydney Alexander James Smith has not been marked for re-use by Centennial Park.

The grave of Sgt Sydney Alexander James Smith has lapsed and the blue sticker is a notice to the family that the position has lapsed.

Should there be no provision by the family, the Office of Australian War Graves or other government bodies to renew the interment right for this position then this grave will be assessed under the Centennial Park Conserving Community History framework before any decisions are made.

Ultimately, the grave will either be maintained in situ or Sgt Sydney Alexander James Smith will be memorialised on a new perpetual memorial which will be established at Centennial Park.

Statement Regarding Graves of Ex-Service Men and Women

The Facts about Commemoration of Service Personnel in South Australia

Limited Tenure – what does it mean?

South Australia, like some other states has limited tenure legislation which means that graves in cemeteries are purchased by families for a specific period of time, generally between 50 and 99 years. This was introduced in 1934 by the South Australian government (before Centennial Park was established) with a view to ensuring that Adelaide cemeteries could continue to service the community for hundreds of years.

While other cemeteries have been practising grave re-use for a number of decades, Centennial Park started this process in 2010. At Centennial Park when a grave is re-used, the original interments are respectfully placed lower in the grave to allow for additional interments in the grave.  While this occurs when there is a need for a grave to be re-used, we also perform this practice at the request of families to make further room for additional family members.

Centennial Park has issued limited tenure interment rights since its inception in 1936, however in 2015 it introduced the option (which is now permissible under law) for families to purchase positions in perpetuity and is the only major Adelaide cemetery to do so. This means that graves that are purchased in perpetuity will never be re-used.

Centennial Park does not make decisions about whether or not a grave will be re-used until after an interment right has lapsed, but as a matter of process and in accordance with South Australian law Centennial Park places a notice (in this case a blue sticker) on the headstone so that family members are aware that the position has lapsed.

This by itself does not constitute a grave being marked as being available for re-use, and this is the case with Sgt Sydney Alexander James Smith.

Current Commemoration Arrangements

The Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) is the federal government department responsible for assessing a service person’s entitlement to recognition.

The OAWG however will not pay the costs of interment right renewals if the graves lapse and the grave exists within a general section of a cemetery within South Australia and advises that the onus is on the family to renew the position.

At Centennial Park there are three areas where service personnel have been placed, depending on their entitlement and family choices;

  • War Graves
  • Derrick Gardens and RSL Walls
  • General Cemetery

The War Graves section at Centennial Park is fully maintained by the OAWG and contains the graves of a number of service personnel who were killed during WWII.

The Derrick Gardens and RSL Walls sections were created through partnership between Centennial Park and the RSL in 1955 and these are post commemorative service areas where ex-service personnel can be placed subject to permission from the RSL.

Derrick Gardens has over 3500 graves and RSL Walls has over 4000 cremation memorials of service personnel and the interment rights in this area are renewed by Centennial Park as part of an agreement between Centennial Park and the South Australian State Government which also provides funding assistance for the ongoing maintenance of this area.

Where service personnel have been placed in general sections of the cemetery, as per the OAWG’s determination, interment right renewals are the responsibility of the family.

What is Centennial Park going to do?

Centennial Park is first and foremost working with the South Australian State Government to ensure that the current agreement that covers Derrick Gardens and the RSL walls continues into the future to ensure that this area is maintained without the need for families to renew graves.

Additionally, Centennial Park has continued discussions with both the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and the RSL on the treatment of veteran’s graves in general areas of the cemetery. This has included some detailed consultation with the RSL on the development of its own policy position on the treatment of veteran’s graves across South Australia.

Centennial Park is currently in the process of redeveloping its framework for Conserving Community History which includes the provision to provide two options for scenarios where service personnel have been placed in general sections of the cemetery.

  • The first is the creation of a list of graves of people who have significant cultural value to the community which would then be converted to perpetuity by Centennial Park. The parameters are yet to be set, but this would include service personnel that hold significant military service history and awards such as medals of honour.
  • The second is to create a significant enduring perpetual memorial to all service personnel who have been placed at Centennial Park, which would have their name and service details inscribed on it so that there will always be a permanent memorial for them at Centennial Park that the family and greater community can visit for generations to come.

Until this framework is finalised, there will be no further graves marked as being available for re-use at Centennial Park.