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Monday, 23 March 1987
Page: 1118

Senator JONES —My question, addressed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, relates to a newspaper article which appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail on 21 March which stated that the records showed that several war heroes were buried in unmarked graves for a period of 39 years after they had perished. Will the Minister give some assurances that the necessary action will be taken to have commemorations affixed to those graves?

Senator GIETZELT —I am aware, as a result of the article which appeared in a Queensland newspaper, that there was a crash almost 40 years ago, in 1948, of a Royal Australian Air Force Lincoln bomber at Amberley and that the crew of 16 persons on board were killed. I am advised that 12 of those killed were unidentified and that, in accordance with the policies of that time, the Department of Defence officially recognised and commemorated their death. The remaining four who were positively identified, according to the then policy, became the responsibility of their next-of-kin. Since 1983 the Government has changed that policy and it now accepts that all in-service deaths are commemorated by the Defence Department. To that extent, of course, the question relates to the portfolio of the Minister for Defence. However, once that decision has been accepted by the Department of Defence, the matters come within my jurisdiction, as the Minister in charge of the Australian War Graves Office.

No action was taken by the next-of-kin of several of those who were identified. The next-of-kin of one person, the late Flight Lieutenant Franklin, did take the necessary action to have a plaque erected. The Queensland branch of the Returned Services League, to its credit, decided to take responsibility for the other three persons, and commemorative plaques have now been erected by the RSL in Queensland. As a result, all of the 16 persons who were killed have been officially recognised in the Australian war graves section and the plaques will be maintained from here on by the Australian War Graves Office.