Despite good intentions, Port Pirie Regional Council has delivered a slap in the face to families of deceased military personnel.
As many as 200 war graves are now “reversed” with headstones at the feet of the coffin instead of at the head.
The council acted swiftly to launch a program to fix the problem after the issue was raised by Greg Mayfield, of The Recorder, after he was approached by Bronwyn Dohnt whose father’s grave is now around the wrong way.
The problem arose during a cemetery war graves upgrade when a series of unified headstones were created amalgamating two rows into one.
On the southern side of each row, the headstones were pulled up from the head of the grave and put on the unified row which faced the foot of the coffins.
Mrs Dohnt said she was was “astounded” at the mistake and estimated as many as 200 graves could be affected by the situation.
“I am in disbelief and shock,” she said while kneeling beside the grave of her father Ernest Farley who was an heroic stretcher-bearer in New Guinea with the 22nd Australian Infantry Batallion in World War II.
“He was a fairly strong person. He was taken for that position on his strength. After he served in the army, he was Port’s head trainer for years because he liked the medical side of things.
“This was a lack of respect first to my father and that after all these years so many headstones can be removed and put in another spot where it is convenient. Those soldiers have had their headstones moved and those families are going there on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.
“We have come out here for 35 years and stood here for my Dad and now I have to turn around and face the other way. They are still war graves and deserve respect as such. I want my Dad’s headstone back where it was.”
Mrs Dohnt thanked former soldier Cr Mick Hopgood for responding quickly to the issue.
Cr Hopgood, who is a member of the asset management committee, said it was a “sensitive issue” and had been referred to the committee.
He agreed that the initial placement was inappropriate and said he would ask council management to look at rectifying the issue.