Military Covenant

UPDATE 13 MARCH 2019. 

The Senate’s FADT Committee is inquiring into the Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Bill 2019. The title is arguably a misnomer since the crux of the Bill is to rightfully recognise the unique nature of military service, and to deliver that concept via legislating our long-sought-after Australian (Military) Covenant.The Committee called for Submissions, barely giving two weeks to do so, on the basis that it needed to table its report by Friday 22 March 2019. As an Association, we have campaigned for a Military Covenant for over 10 years. The essence of our Submission is an amalgam of all that has been said before about our support for the concept.  A copy of our Submission to the FADT Committee is available at HERE.  We have also been advised that that the FADT Committee will be in session to inquire into the Covenant Bill on Monday 18 March. Also note that there are two more Parliamentary sitting weeks before the expected election mid May. Both the House and the Senate sit in the weeks 1 - 4 April and again 15 - 18 April. Whether the Bill is passed in this Parliament or the next, remains to be seen.


Just when we could have thought that the so-to-speak 'fat lady’ was fronting to sing on the Bill to legislate our long sought-after Covenant (see UPDATE 14 FEBRUARY below), turns out that she is not even close to warming up her vocal cords to ‘warble’ a first stanza of a selected refrain.   

Our earlier advice that the Australian Veterans’ Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Bill 2019 was to be debated in the House next week. There was an expectation that it would be universally supported except for perhaps nuances with the wording of the Covenant at the edges. After all, a Bill that enshrines the Covenant, makes a commitment to beneficial legislation, and provides a recognition package (veterans card and lapel pin) appeared totally bi-partisan. 

All that is now not as easy as it seemed. A Labor-inspired Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee inquiry has been mounted ‘to give the ESO community an opportunity to provide feedback' on the Bill. The deadline for submissions is tentatively set at Wednesday 6 March.


AUSTRALIAN VETERANS’ RECOGNITION (PUTTING VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES FIRST) BILL 2019.  Our longstanding campaign to introduce a Military Covenant will soon bear fruit with the introduction of legislation into Parliament of the abovenamed Bill

The Bill itself includes the proposed wording of the Covenant, and whilst the wording in its final format doesn’t include our suggestion that ‘families’ should be part of any recognition, we have achieved at least this much. But good news nonetheless because the concept of the unique nature of military service will be ingrained in all relevant legislation going forward.

The legislation is expected to be presented to Parliament next week.  Watch this space for further information.

Now to keep the bxxxxds honest !!!


DFWA, along with the national leadership of the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO) is proposing the development an “Australian Military Covenant”.  A proposed Covenant is currently the subject of discussions between ADSO and the Government.

Some time ago the DFWA set out to describe what made service in the Australian Defence Force a unique occupation. The discussion around service in the ADF had become clouded by a range of views describing the characteristics of military service many of which could also be attributed to employment in the various police and emergency services.

The discussion centered around the concept of The Unique Nature of Military Service .. see links below to discussion papers on this subject.  A brief Facts Sheet on this topic is also available.

The community’s general understanding of the uniqueness of service in the ADF had been blurred to the point where military service was being equated with employment in the police and emergency services. The object was to clarify what the crucial element making service in the ADF unique was.

Essentially the uniqueness is brought about by the surrender of the individual’s basic human rights under Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the UN in 1948 to which Australia is a signatory amd the liability to be ordered to apply lethal force against another human being.  In no other occupation is the surrender of this basic human right demanded nor is the legal obligation to obey an order to apply lethal force imposed.

The call to develop an “Australian Military Covenant” follows on from an understanding of this uniqueness and is a way of spelling out the mutual obligations between the Nation and its service men and women.

The proposed Australian Military Covenant is an instrument designed to articulate the, to date, largely unwritten mutual obligations between the Nation and the members of the Australian Defence Force. It will promote greater awareness and understanding within the general community of the demands placed on ADF members as well as the community’s expectations of the ethos and standards demanded of its Australian Defence Force members. It will also help highlight the qualities and skills ex ADF members bring to the workforce and encourage commerce and industry to give favourable consideration to employing  spouses of ADF members and discharging members. It is a natural facet of the emerging ADF flexible workforce model.


Most will not have missed that the Australian Military Covenant has had some recent media attention in recent days. First last week when the Labor Opposition announced certainly to our surprise as to timing that they would legislate to introduce such a document. Then came Katter’s Australian Party Senator (Fraser Anning) on Wednesday advancing a motion in the Senate to have a Covenant legislated by the anniversary of the Armistice of WW1 (11 Nov 18). To the Government’s credit, it was a date that we had convinced them that was a fitting one to proclaim the nations commitment to the Australian Defence Community.  
DFWA President Kel Ryan has emphasised to the Minister and the DVA Secretary the following:

  •  ‘No Disadvantage Principle’. During the recent period of detailed consideration of the wording of the Covenant, this important aspect had been removed in early drafts of the Australian Military Covenant. While it is reasonable to suggest that this could be included in the underpinning legislation, that may not be enough to cement the Covenant as an acceptable one to all the members of the Australian Defence Community. This is a covenant for all Australians and should not be open to criticism, it must be beyond challenge.  It is certainly not a covenant only for those currently serving in the ADF.  
  • An Australian Military Covenant. Given the above, it is or should be a ‘Military Covenant’ not a ‘Veteran Covenant’. Recent suggestions to refer to it as a veteran covenant is unacceptable ….
  • The Australian Military Covenant must be enshrined in the VEA, MRCA, DRCA and all other veteran related legislation. It should be prominent in the many and various submissions and papers we as a community make to government. It is the centre piece of who we are and what we do on behalf of the nation and our respective communities. 

The latest wording of that Covenant is HERE.




1 November 2007
Open Letter To The Prime Minister And Leader Of The Opposition - Indexation - Commutation - Tax - Unique Nature
22 October 2009
Forum - Unique Nature - Synopsis - Keynote Address - Mellor - Bell - Breen - Evans - Ryan - Usher
7 October 2010 Nature Of Military Service
DFWA Nature Of Military Service Paper 10-09 Amdt 1
23 January 2014
RAN Personnel Deserve Our Total Support
21 May 2010
279 Update - March 2013
FAIR GO CAMPAIGN GOES AUSTRALIA-WIDE - Thornlie Senior High School Rally - The Government’s Position on Indexation - Proposed Military Covenant - Outsourcing ADF Medical Care
277 Update - November 2012
20 November 2012 - DFWA Holds Its Annual General Meeting - Outsourcing ADF Medical Care - Salary Related Allowance Case 2012 - Fair Go Campaign – Outcomes in Parliament - Military Covenant - Military Court of Australia Bill 2012 - Defence Widows Support Group (DWSG)
245 Update - November 2009
Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commision - Indexation: meeting with Minister Tanner - DVA Advocacy Review - Unique Nature of Military Service
244 Update - October 2009
Response to Matthews - ADF Deaths on Operational Service
243 Update - September 2009
Military Justice Dilemma - Phase 2 Living In Accommodation Project - Military Superannuation