National medal

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2.3 Approved Voluntary Organisations (Part 4 of the Regulations)

Voluntary organisations17 that are incorporated in Australia and undertake search and/or rescue functions in Australia may be determined by the Governor-General, on the advice of the Minister, as approved voluntary organisations for the purposes of the National Medal.

2.3.1 How Voluntary Organisations become Approved Voluntary Organisations

Voluntary organizations can be determined as ‘approved voluntary organisations’ if they have the primary function to 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. 18

Those members of approved voluntary organisations who perform the ‘primary function’ and meet the other eligibility criteria19 can count their eligible service towards the National Medal. Service prior to the determination of the organisation may be credited in certain circumstances.20

Not all of a voluntary organisation needs to be a search or rescue organisation for it to become an approved voluntary organisation. Members who, in performing the search or rescue function, are exposed from time to time to the risk of death, injury or trauma undertake eligible service. It is service by these persons in this part of the organisation that is approved in a determination by the Governor-General.21

An appropriate person from the organisation should contact the Awards and Culture Branch (see Annex 6) to discuss the requirements for approval before making a submission in the form outlined at Annex 2. Where an organisation is a member of a peak voluntary rescue association or similar body it may be helpful for it to consult that peak body before submitting an application. It is not necessary for each branch of an organisation to apply for approval. Where an organisation has coverage across a state and operates a local district structure, application for approval should be sought for the organisation as a whole; districts do not need to apply separately. An organisation which is national can apply on behalf of the whole organisation.

To be eligible a voluntary organisation must:

The receipt of a grant-in-aid from a government, sponsorship or fees-for-service does not preclude a voluntary organisation from being eligible to be approved for the Medal so long as its charter is not-for-profit.

  • have a corporate existence.23

The organisation must be registered in Australia as a company, association, society, charity or under a royal charter and must issue an annual report and have audited accounts.

  • be recognised by the Commonwealth, or a state or territory government as a voluntary organisation that responds in times of emergency in respect of the functions outlined above.

The home state or territory government is the appropriate body to provide recognition to an organisation. Search or rescue organisations with a national focus should, in the first instance, contact the Awards and Culture Branch for advice. (See Annex 6.)

Recognition by government may vary from formal registration with a state rescue board as in New South Wales (although not all groups registered will necessarily meet the criteria for the Medal) to a formal arrangement with a police force to conduct maritime search or rescue work or participation in a state disaster and emergency planning arrangement. Recognition is an essential pre-requisite for approval for access to the Medal.

  • have terms of membership for those performing the primary function that require the organisation or the Commonwealth or a state or territory government to insure, compensate or indemnify those members in respect of the performance of their search or rescue functions.24

  • maintain a training regime sufficient to ensure that the members who perform the primary function are fit for their duties.25

An applicant organisation should be able to demonstrate that a training regime is operative and that records of training are maintained.

  • have a responsible person to perform the duties of a chief officer.26

The chief officer will usually be the chief executive officer or the person occupying the highest office in the organisation. A voluntary organisation may specify another member of the organisation or appoint an external person (for example, a member of a peak voluntary rescue association) to perform this function. In this case, the name of the person discharging the chief officer’s functions must be notified to the Registrar of National Medals. (See Annex 6.)

The chief officer is responsible for ensuring that the organisation meets and continues to meet the Medal criteria, nominating eligible persons for the Medal and clasp and keeping records of members’ service. (See 4 and 6, below, and Annex 3.)

  • maintain records sufficient for the chief officer to meet the obligations that these regulations place on the organisation.27 (See 6, below).

The records maintained by the organisation must be adequate to enable the chief officer to certify recommendations to the Governor-General for the award of Medals and clasps. Records may be audited to ensure compliance, and recommendations which are not sustained by appropriate records may result in awards being cancelled and place the approval of the organisation at risk.28

A voluntary organisation which seeks to become an approved voluntary organisation for the Medal should, after consulting the Awards and Culture Branch (see Annex 6), make a submission to the Branch, providing the information outlined at Annex 2.

The organisation will be advised as soon as possible as to the outcome of its application or if further information is required. Where successful, a determination will be signed by the Minister, recommending to the Governor General that the organisation be approved. Approved bodies will be gazetted from time to time by the Registrar of National Medals.

2.3.2 Obligations of Approved Voluntary Organisations

Approved voluntary organisations that cease to exist or cease to perform the primary function can be declared as no longer approved.29 Eligible service earned with the organisation while it was approved remains valid. An organisation which changes its name, but otherwise retains its functions and structure, must advise the Awards and Culture Branch (see Annex 6) of such a change. A name change can be made without altering the organisation’s eligibility for the Medal.30

Organisations which fail to maintain the standards required to be an approved voluntary organisation or which nominate ineligible persons for the Medal or clasp can have their approval terminated and awards cancelled.31 The Australian Government reserves the right to undertake audits of records to ensure an organisation is meeting its responsibilities as an approved body.32

The organisation must notify the Registrar of National Medals of the name of the chief officer if this is other than the head of the organisation.33 The Registrar should be advised when there is a change.

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