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Australian War Graves in Benghazi Cemetery - Reckoning, Repair and Respect

This week we heard distressing news that Australian war graves, along with others at the Benghazi War Cemetery in Libya, had been damaged. While we waited for confirmation as to the number and identity of the graves, our thoughts have been with the relatives and comrades of those soldiers whose graves have been desecrated in this way.

The Australian Government has condemned the attack and has now confirmed that the headstones of 50 -out of the 55 war graves of Australian soldiers - were affected. Of these, 45 were marked, and five pertained to unknown soldiers. The Department of Veterans Affairs is in the process of contacting veterans' families.

The Libyan government has apologised for the damage to these and nearly 200 other graves which were desecrated and several persons have now been detained.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is working to repair the damage.

I am extremely saddened that this has occurred. Families and friends of those affected are feeling shocked, angered and distressed.

I have no doubt that many locals in Benghazi would share that anger. This behaviour is a complete transgression of universal human values, shared across religions, nations and communities. In every culture, graves are places to be respected - sites of remembrance and peace.

Appropriate accountability for those responsible, as well as repair and reinstatement of the graves, is clearly required.

More than 1200 Commonwealth troops who fought in the north African desert battles of World War 2 are buried in the Benghazi cemetery.

This event has served to remind us, with respect, of those among them who died serving Australia, and whose final resting place was so far from home.

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