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A major restoration of Bairnsdale’s heritage-listed cenotaph moved another step forward today with a de-consecration ceremony held ahead of the beginning of site work.

Local MP Darren Chester, who is also the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, attended the ceremony held at the cenotaph in the centre median strip of the Princes Highway near Service Street.

Speaking at the service, Mr Chester said there were obvious parallels between the challenging times created by the coronavirus and the recovery from both world wars.

“Our challenge as a community is to keep working together, just like our nation rallied to support the troops during times of conflict,” Mr Chester said.

“We need to have hope and confidence that better days will come, and we need to all work together, to never let our mates down and show the resilience that previous generations have demonstrated.

“These are difficult times but our community has overcome many serious challenges in the past.”

The cenotaph was unveiled in 1922 to remember local people who lost their lives during the Great War. Plaques to commemorate those who died during subsequent conflicts were added over the decades.

The Bairnsdale cenotaph, which is included on the Heritage Council of Victoria’s heritage register, is one of only four cenotaphs in Australia to be consecrated. Today’s ceremony removed the religious blessing to enable the restoration work to proceed.

Mr Chester announced in March that the Federal Government would contribute more than $137,000 for the cenotaph to undergo a major restoration.

“Unfortunately, the cenotaph is in poor condition due to its age and past attempts to repair the structure. Pieces of stone have fallen away and there are also a number of significant cracks that hint at further structural issues,” Mr Chester said.

The funding for stage three of the restoration was secured through the Federal Government’s Saluting Their Service Commemorative Grants Program. East Gippsland Shire Council is funding the first two stages, allocating $228,000 in its 2019-20 budget to the project.

“Australia has a proud history of remembering those who have served our nation, their families and those who wear the military uniform today,” Mr Chester said.

“When the restoration project is finished, Bairnsdale’s cenotaph will continue to be a fitting place to remember and honour those locals who served our country, and serve as the focus for local commemorative events such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day for years to come.”

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