The federal opposition has backed in principle a proposal from the NSW government to establish a national veterans’ burial ground inspired by the Arlington National Cemetery in the US.
NSW Veterans Affairs Minister David Elliott last month wrote to his federal counterpart outlining a proposal for a new national war cemetery.
The letter, dated March 30, proposed locating the cemetery “on Commonwealth land just outside Canberra”.
It said any Australian Defence Medal recipient, including veterans who died from suicide, should have the right to be buried there.
“In particular, this new memorial would be a solemn site for honouring soldiers killed in battle and peacekeeping missions, and those who died by suicide following their return to Australia after serving their nation,” Mr Elliott wrote in the letter.
“Any soldier, sailor or aviator who has qualified for the Australian Defence Medal would be entitled to being buried there.”
Labor’s federal veteran affairs spokesman, Shayne Neumann, said the party supported the proposal in principle and would work with the NSW government on the project if Labor won the election.
“Labor supports the proposal in-principle, but we need to see the details and there needs to be proper consultation,” Mr Neumann said.
“I understand the Minister did not consult the federal government, or even NSW Cemeteries, before he went out and announced the idea.
“I note the project would be modelled on America‘s Arlington National Cemetery, and would include a chapel and memorial dedicated to veterans who have died by suicide, which is welcome.
“Federal Labor called for the Royal Commission into veteran suicide, so we think it’s appropriate that these veterans also receive the recognition they deserve and we have somewhere to help provide closure for their families.
“An Albanese Labor Government would be happy to work with the NSW Government to progress this.”
Mr Elliott first suggested the cemetery when he was appointed Veterans Affairs Minister late last year.
“It’s with the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader, so hopefully there would be some bipartisan approach,” he said earlier in the week.
NSW opposition spokesman for veterans affairs Greg Warren said he supported the cemetery proposal.
“Anything we can do to support our veterans and respect their service is a good thing,” he said.
“The Minister discussed this at length with me, and I think there is much validity in this … I would like the federal government to step up to the plate and see to the needs of veterans and their families.”
Arlington National Cemetery, located just outside Washington DC, was established in 1864 and contains about 400,000 graves where armed services personnel are buried.
Federal Veterans Affairs Minister Andrew Gee said he looked forward to further discussions with Mr Elliott and that he would respond to the letter soon.
“Minister Elliott and I share a passion for the veteran community, and I thank him for raising the issue of a new national military cemetery in Australia,” Mr Gee said.
“I recently received his letter and will be providing a formal response in the near future.
“I believe the issue of such a national cemetery is worthy of further consideration, although there would obviously need to be very extensive consultation with the defence and veteran community, as well as all of the states and territories.
“The next step would be to put the item on the agenda for the next Veteran Wellbeing Taskforce, which includes all of Australia’s veterans affairs ministers.
“Australia does have 76 war cemeteries and plots, and 10 remembrance gardens, which are maintained by the Australian Government through the Office of Australian War Graves.
“We also have the Australian War Memorial as a national sacred place of remembrance dedicated to those who have served our nation, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which represents all those who have given their lives in war and other military operations.
“I look forward to further discussions with Minister Elliott about his proposal.”