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Darwin Cenotaph is an important memorial that commemorates the sacrifice of Australian service men and women who have served in conflicts in which Australia has been involved.

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. It overlooks the harbour where many died in the 19 February 1942 bombing of Darwin and is located where the guns of the 14th Anti-Aircraft Battery were positioned and fired the first shots in the defence 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 service men and women. The Cenotaph bears the names of all Territorians who have sacrificed their life in defence of our country.

Darwin Cenotaph Renewal Project

Darwin RSL has 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 service men 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. The project is expected to be completed by 20 July 2020.

Eternal Flame

A feature of the renewal is 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 a perpetual gratitude towards, and remembrance of, its war dead. 

Bombing of Darwin Memorial Garden

A new Bombing of Darwin memorial garden will be established behind the Cenotaph. This space will include the retained significant trees, enhanced gardens, lawn area, future seating and new interpretive panels installed along the barrier overlooking the harbour. The flag poles will be relocated to the northern end of the Cenotaph, avoiding visual competition with the monument, whilst also framing the scene with the verticality of the flags display. 

Lighting

New lighting will be installed to enhance the area, primarily providing focal lighting of the monument and minor amendments to the Bombing of Darwin memorial garden. Lighting is also to be included to the Eternal Flame itself and the forecourt in which it is located. 

Civilian Memorial Walls 

The Civilian Memorial Walls and plaques at the entrance to the Cenotaph area are to be removed to allow for the eternal flame and forecourt. These important community plaques are to be relocated to a new memorial wall at a nearby location along a civilian memorial walk. The plaques will be carefully preserved and re-placed in the same order on the new memorial wall and will be the subject of a separate design commission which will involve community consultation. The memorial walk and walls will occur as part of Stage 2 of the renewal project which is expected to commence later in 2020. 

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