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Dunedin City Council – Kaunihera-a-rohe o Otepoti
Anderson Bay cemetery.

Queen Elisabeth Medal recipients

The Dunedin City Council and Toitū Otago Settlers Museum assisted with the project locally, and the Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust of New Zealand made a financial contribution towards the restoration of their graves.

Twenty-five Dunedin women who went to outstanding efforts to help the people of Belgium during World War 1 were recognised by the New Zealand and Belgian Governments on 11 October 2017.

Following World War 1, 33 women in New Zealand were awarded the Médaille de la Reine Elisabeth (Queen Elisabeth Medal); 25 of them were from Dunedin. This medal was given to Belgian and foreign women who dedicated themselves to the relief of Belgian civilians and soldiers during the war by providing financial, material or medical assistance.

As part of World War 1 centenary commemorations, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage in New Zealand and the Belgian Embassy in Australia worked together to identify the women in New Zealand who received the medal. They subsequently sought descendants of the women in order to restore the graves of the medal recipients and place plaques acknowledging their contribution to Belgium. The Belgian Ambassador to New Zealand, His Excellency Mr Marc Mullie, visited Dunedin to participate in a ceremony to commemorate the medal recipients and acknowledge the project to restore and mark their graves. Descendants of the women were also invited to attend.

The Dunedin City Council and Toitū Otago Settlers Museum assisted with the project locally, and the Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust of New Zealand made a financial contribution towards the restoration of their graves.

Of the 25 Dunedin medal recipients, 20 were laid to rest in Dunedin, including six at Andersons Bay Cemetery, three were cremated and their ashes scattered, and the rest were buried at the Northern, Southern and Port Chalmers cemeteries. As a result of the project, four graves had significant restoration, while those not requiring this level of restoration were cleaned. Plaques have been added to 16 graves. One further grave is in the process of being restored and marked and three locations are being recognised to honour those cremated.

The project sparked the exhibition at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, The Women's War Patriotism, Service & Dissent (link to external website, new window). Further information about the women can be found on the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s website (link to external website, new window). Some of the medal recipients also feature in a video produced by the First World War Centenary Programme, WW100, which can be viewed at WW100.govt.nz/compassion webpage. (link to external website, new window).

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