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Definition of a Veteran

The Oasis Townsville applies DVA's broad definition of a Veteran as anyone who is, or has, served in the ADF.

We refer to them as serving veterans and ex-serving veterans

A member of the veteran community is all veterans and any person who supports or supported them.  In particular, that includes family members (especially partners, parents, siblings, and children) and close friends.

The following is an extract from a letter written in August 2021 by a First Assistant Secretary in DVA in response to a letter regarding the use of the term 'veteran'. 

The Minister has asked me to respond on his behalf.

...The term ‘veteran’ has been used to mean different things in different contexts by governments, ex-service organisations and within legislation administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). The terms ‘soldier’, ‘sailor’ and ‘airman’ are not currently in regular use outside the Australian Defence Force, and are not used in legislation administered by DVA.

In November 2017, at the Veterans’ Ministers’ Roundtable, the Commonwealth and all state and territory Veterans’ Affairs Ministers reached consensus regarding a common definition of the term ‘veteran’. It was agreed that ‘veteran’ would be defined broadly as ‘a person who is serving or has served in the Australian Defence Force’. The aim of the decision was to provide a single overarching term for general use, in order to avoid confusion arising from technical terminology. It was also intended to draw attention to the commonality of service to the nation that exists among all Australians who have served in the ADF. This decision has
no impact on access to entitlements. It relates only to how the term is used in correspondence and other routine documentation, and significance of the term ‘veteran’ within the legislation is unchanged.

In recent years a number of initiatives have been introduced which have been open to all who have served on a full-time basis in the Australian Defence Force, or certain reserves, such as non-liability mental health treatment. However, while the Australian Veterans’ Recognition Act 2019 defines a veteran broadly, in line with the definition discussed above, other legislation administered by DVA continues to make distinctions between the types of service rendered by different members of the ADF.


Under DVA legislation, certain entitlements can only be provided to those ADF members who have served in wars and conflicts, in recognition of the specific effects, risks and privations associated with service on operations. This principle has long been supported by successive Australian Governments, as well as ex-service organisations, and has been a feature of the Repatriation system since its inception. In other legislation, the term ‘veteran’ is only defined in the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986, and then has specific meaning in relation to certain service types. Other Acts administered by DVA do not use the term ‘veteran’, instead referring to ‘employees’ or ‘members of the ADF’. However, the legislation makes provision for qualifying, operational, warlike or nonwarlike service and has certain benefits that are only available to members who have rendered those types of service.

The Australian Government values the service of all current and former members of the Australian Defence Force, whether or not they were deployed overseas. Veterans who have not served overseas remain entitled to compensation and treatment for medical conditions arising from their service.

DVA understands that some members of the serving and ex-service community would like to see a differentiation in general terminology between those who have served in wars or conflicts and those who have not, and not just within the legislation. However, given the range of service types that may give rise to different types of coverage under DVA administered legislation, a broad definition of ‘veteran’ is appropriate for general use by DVA.

Local memorials historically have generally defined their inclusion criteria according to criteria established by the organizing bodies rather than reference to veterans’ legislation, and as such these criteria are matters for the local authorities. 

Veronica Hancock
First Assistant Secretary
Veteran and Family Policy Division


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