Bega Valley primary schools take up Anzac Day grave legacy

For many years, World War II veteran William ‘Bill’ Black would tend to the graves of service men and women in the Bega cemetery in the lead up to Anzac day and lay a sprig of rosemary as a sign of respect. 

After he passed away his daughter, Pamela Black, took up the practice to continue his remembrance to those who served their country. 

Realising this level of care may not be replicated in other cemeteries – paired with a concern that young people were becoming disengaged with the Anzac narrative – Ms Black has recently decided to expand her father’s legacy. 

On Friday, April 13, pupils from years 5 and 6 at Quaama and Cobargo Public Schools attended their respective town cemeteries to spend a few minutes at the grave of each Australian soldier, clean and tidy it and place a sprig of rosemary upon it, just as Bill Black had done. 

Ms Black said that all of the children involved wanted to take part again next year. 

“Some of the kids would see their last name on the graves we were visiting, so it created that connection and awareness within the group,” she said. 

“Because they visit the cemetery in their locality, they understand that if it wasn’t for the people in the graves we visited, we wouldn't be here today.”

Ms Black started the project a year and a half ago, recording all of the service graves in the Bega Valley so she could pass on their details to their nearest primary schools. 

She spent months walking each cemetery aisle, recording the locations of the graves that displayed the Australian Army memorial plaque and compiling the information in a comprehensive folio. 

After the success of the Cobargo and Quaama school visits, Ms Black’s vision is to see all schools in the Bega Valley take part in the project next year.

She has already located almost every soldier’s grave from Cobargo to Eden and is ready to contact schools so they may include the project in their Anzac day preparations. 

“It’s something that can very easily spread over the whole shire, and even the whole state, once the graves are identified,” she said. 

“As we lose the family members of these service men, it becomes harder to keep this practice and respect up, but if the young people are involved, each generation will learn about these soldiers and they will be visited and remembered, year after year after year. 

Bemboka Light Horse Troop member Sergeant Warren Davis joined the pupils at the cemetery, answering questions about his uniform and telling war stories passed down from the Anzacs.

Ms Black added that a rosemary bush would be donated to each participating school for the purpose of the project.