Poppies tribute 'contrary to principle'

SMALL Flanders poppy tiles that were placed on local World War I soldiers' graves as a kind gesture to mark the centenary were considered "commendable in its intent, but contrary to principle" according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Just before Remembrance Day 2018, certain tiles were removed from graves at Kerang Cemetery by a DVA representative without any word of warning and with no apology.

Kerang and District Family History Group president Julie Smith and Kerang and District Returned and Services League sub-branch president Robert Hampton were part of the poppy plan, believing it was "a nice thing to do to mark the centenary year". 

They recently both spoke of their shock and bewilderment by the removal act, after spending a lot of time and effort on the project and a total of $500 on the tiles.

"I and others in the community consider the removal of them an insult, especially since they were removed from a War Veterans representative," Mrs Smith said.

"It's a bit of a contradiction, if you ask me."

An ambiguous response from the DVA stating it doesn't fit 'War Graves assets' only fuelled the fire for Mrs Smith and Mr Hampton.

The Gannawarra Times helped search for a better response.

While there was no response as to what they did with the removed tiles, the department made the following statement in response to the query:

The Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) acts as an agent of the CWGC to maintain war cemeteries and memorials and individual war graves (in Australia and the region) for members of the Commonwealth forces, who died during the First and Second World Wars. 

OAWG maintains these war graves and memorials using the CWGC principles which are:

• Each of the dead should be commemorated by name on the headstone or memorial.

• Headstones and memorials should be permanent

• Headstones should be uniform

• There should be no distinction made on account of military rank, race or creed

All Australian war graves, other official commemorations and Memorials to the Missing are regularly maintained and will continue to be maintained in perpetuity to established Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) principles and standards. 

The particulars of each individual memorial such as the inclusion of an epitaph or religious symbol was undertaken in consultation with the families. 

Any alteration to graves or markers is only undertaken by OAWG with the express consent of the family. Any alteration of graves including by attachment of additional items may be not be consistent with the original wishes or intentions of the family. 

In order to discharge our responsibilities to the CWGC principles and standards and to ensure an appropriate standard of presentation, OAWG as part of regular maintenance activities routinely removes personalised items and embellishments from graves or grave markers including but not limited to photographs, badges, pins, poppies, flags, vases and aged floral arrangements and containers. 

The addition of personalised items such as poppy tiles while commendable in its intent is contrary to the principle of equality of treatment which underlies the Commission's work and may be misconstrued as OAWG endorsing preferential acknowledgement of one group of Australian war dead over another.

The Australian Government through the work of OAWG is equally committed to the dignified and respectful commemoration of the service and sacrifice of all Australians who have died in war or as a result of their war service.

'CONTRARY'. A war centenary tribute at Kerang has been deemed inappropriate by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

'CONTRARY'. A war centenary tribute at Kerang has been deemed inappropriate by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

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