National medal

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1.2 History of eligible service

14 February 1975

The Medal was created and the following organisations were recognised:

  • the ADF

  • Australian police forces

  • Australian fire services

  • Australian ambulance services.

20 April 1982

  • The Medal was no longer awarded for purely ADF service. Prior continuous defence service or defence service continuous with other eligible service, prior to 1982, remained eligible provided it had not been used to qualify for a defence long service award. Non continuous periods of defence service after 1982 were eligible, again, provided it had not been used to qualify for a defence long service award.

  • Volunteer and part-time service with eligible groups was confirmed as eligible service for the Medal.

  • The requirement for continuous periods of non-defence service was replaced by a provision allowing separate periods of service to be aggregated.

1 April 1986

  • The Australian Protective Service became an eligible service organisation (at that time it became a separate entity to the Australian Federal Police, and service with that separate entity remains eligible service).

30 April 1987

  • Correctional services and emergency services became eligible service organisations.

18 June 1999:

  • Existing eligible organisations (‘service organisations’) continued to be eligible.

  • Provision was made for government organisations that are similar to service organisations and which meet the standard for the Medal to be determined as approved organisations by the Governor-General on the advice of the Minister. (Part 3 of the regulations.)

  • Volunteer search or rescue organisations that satisfy the Medal regulations can be determined as approved volunteer organisations by the Governor-General on the advice of the Minister. (Part 4 of the regulations.)

  • The requirement that ADF service prior to 20 April 1982 be continuous to be counted for the National Medal was removed, allowing broken periods of ADF service prior to that date to be aggregated.2

  • The circumstances allowing Defence service prior to 20 April 1982 to earn both a defence long service award and the National Medal in certain circumstances were codified.3

20 April 2011

    Provision was made to:

  • allow government organisations which do not enforce laws to be approved, e.g. government search and rescue services;4

  • allow periods of service by any foreign secondee or exchangee, with an approved organisation, to count towards the Medal (previously only service by persons from Commonwealth countries could use such service);5

  • make clear that psychological trauma alone is sufficient to qualify for the Medal;6 and

  • extend eligibility to pre-1973 service by former members of the Field Constabulary of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (Kiaps), to bring recognition into line with pre-existing eligibility arrangements for former members of the Regular Constabulary.7

An up to date list of currently eligible groups is on the National Medal page of the Australian honours website, under “More Information”.

2 Approved Organisations for the National Medal

There are three classifications of approved organisations in which service is eligible for the Medal: service organisations, approved government organisations, and approved voluntary organisations. These are defined below. Only those members of approved organisations who undertake the ‘primary function’ and satisfy other eligibility criteria8 qualify for the Medal.

2.1 Service Organisations, which meet the criteria of Government Organisations

Service organisations are defined and specified in regulation 2. They are:

  • Australian ambulance services9

  • Australian correctional services

  • Australian emergency services

  • Australian fire services

  • Australian police forces

  • the Australian Protective Service10

Only those service organisations which meet the criteria of ‘government organisations’11 qualify for the Medal. For example, if a state’s volunteer rural fire service conforms to the definition of ‘government organisation’, its members in the primary function can accrue eligible service for the Medal.

Service by commercial contractors to the government (who provide, for example, fire, ambulance or correctional services) is not eligible service, except where a contractor is itself 100 per cent government-owned.12 Non profit organisations operating under an arrangement with a government are eligible to be service organisations; for example, the public ambulance services provided by St John Ambulance Australia under arrangements with state or territory governments.13

2.2 Approved Government Organisations (Part 3 of the Regulations)

Persons can earn eligible service in organisations that both meet the test of government organisations and show that their service conditions equate to those of service organisations. The Governor-General can determine, on the advice of the Minister, that an organisation which meets these criteria is an ‘approved government organisation’.14

The criteria15 require that the government organisation be similar to a service organisation in that:

  1. the primary function of the organisation is to:

  1. enforce the law in order to protect persons or property; or

  2. provide in Australia, in times of emergency or natural disaster:

  1. physical assistance to persons through search or rescue; or

  2. physical assistance to protect property or the environment; and

  1. some or all of the members of the organisation are exposed to the risk of death, injury or trauma (including psychological trauma) in the course of performing that primary function.

Those members of an approved government organisation who perform the primary function and meet the other eligibility criteria can count their eligible service towards the National Medal. Service prior to the determination of the organisation may be credited in certain circumstances.16

At least some of the members of the organisation must, in the course of performing the primary function, be exposed to the risk of death, injury or trauma. Service of this type is eligible service in all approved organisations. An organisation (or relevant part of it) cannot be approved for the Medal unless at least some of the members meet this criterion.

2.2.1 How Government Organisations become Approved Government Organisations

Government organisations may be approved for the Medal by class or on an individual basis. It is expected that in most cases the former will apply, as similar bodies which operate in all states and territories will usually be evaluated together. Determination of government organisations will only be contemplated when supported by the relevant Federal, state or territory minister(s) or by, or on behalf of, a Ministerial Council. When similar bodies operate in all states and territories, it is expected that a single application would be lodged on behalf of them all.

In evaluating an application, consideration is given to how closely the conditions of service in performing the primary function equate to those in service organisations already qualified for the Medal.

It is suggested organisations make preliminary contact with the Awards and Culture Branch (see Annex 6) before they make a submission in the form outlined at Annex 1.

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