The Cenotaph was first erected outside Government House in 1921. Funds for the Cenotaph were subscribed by various organisations and committees throughout the Territory. A dedication service was held in April 1921 when the monument was entrusted to the keeping of the Darwin Town Council by the Soldiers Monument Committee. In handing over the monument Mr Percy Kelsey, hon secretary to the Soldiers Monument Committee stated:
On behalf of the committee representing the citizens of the Northern Territory who have subscribed towards placing this memorial here I now place in your keeping as Mayor of this town, this token of their appreciation and regard, and I trust that the memories of what our men have done for us may inspire yours and successive Councils with a true appreciation of the seriousness of your trust and that it may enable them to tend to this monument with reverential and affectionate care.
The Cenotaph was relocated to the Civic Centre gardens in 1970 as Government House became too small to hold commemorative services. In 1990 a larger site was again required and it was moved to Bicentennial Park. This site overlooks Darwin Harbour from which all men left during the First World War and would have been one of the last familiar sites the men saw as they sailed off to war. Many servicemen and women died in the 19 February 1942 bombing of Darwin and the Cenoptaph is located where the guns of the 14th Anti-Aircraft Battery were positioned and fired the first shots in the defense of Darwin.
Darwin’s Cenotaph is a declared object on the Heritage Register. It was nominated in September 1996 and declared by the Minister in June 2000.
The Cenotaph has continued to be an important monument to recognise and commemorate the sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women. The Cenotaph bears the names of all Territorians who have sacrificed their lives in defense of our country.
Darwin Cenotaph Renewal Project
Darwin RSL commenced a $1 million renewal project of the Darwin Cenotaph. The renewal will enhance the site and recognises the importance of this memorial in commemorating the sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women.
Darwin RSL received a $1 million grant from the Australian Government for the renewal of the Darwin Cenotaph. Stage one of the project commenced in April 2020.
A feature of the renewal project was the creation of an eternal flame lit with LED lighting within a new forecourt at the entrance to the Cenotaph area. An eternal flame is widely accepted as a symbol of eternal life. An eternal flame at a war memorial symbolizes perpetual gratitude towards, and remembrance of, its war dead.
Bombing of Darwin Memorial Garden
A new Bombing of Darwin memorial garden has been established behind the Cenotaph. This space includes the retained significant trees, enhanced gardens, lawn area, seating and new interpretive panels installed along the barrier overlooking the harbour. The flag poles have been relocated to the northern end of the Cenotaph, avoiding visual competition with the monument, whilst also framing the scene with the verticality of the flag display.
New lighting has been installed to enhance the area, primarily providing focal lighting of the monument and minor amendments to the Bombing of Darwin memorial garden. Lighting has also been included at the Eternal Flame and the forecourt in which it is located.
Civilian Memorial Walls
The Civilian Memorial Walls and family plaques at the entrance to the Cenotaph area have been removed to allow for the eternal flame and forecourt. These important community plaques are to be relocated to a new memorial wall nearby. The plaques have been carefully stored for safekeeping at the Darwin Civic Centre. Planning is now underway to return the plaques to the Darwin Cenotaph.
Plaque owners are welcome to view their plaque by viewing a photo or in person and this can be arranged by contacting Council on 08 8930 0300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.