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C16/2010 British Nuclear Test Defence Service under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA)



British Nuclear Test Defence Service under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA)

Amends DI No.


Replaces DI No.


To advise delegates that former Australian defence personnel who have suffered an illness/injury as a result of their participation in the British Nuclear Tests (BNT) Program in Australia, are eligible to claim for compensation and health care benefits under the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA). Widows and dependant children may also make a claim in respect of the death of a defence participant.

Effective Date

This measure took effect from 1 July 2010.


Between 1952 and 1957, the United Kingdom conducted a series of nuclear weapons tests in Australia. The tests were carried out in five major operations: two at Monte Bellos Islands, Western Australia (1952 and 1956); one at Emu Field, South Australia (1953); and two at Maralinga Range, South Australia (1956 and 1957). Over 8,000 defence personnel are estimated to have participated in the tests. A series of minor trials relating to weapons components were undertaken in parallel between 1953 and 1963 at both Emu Field and the Maralinga Range.

As one of its 2007 election commitments, the Government undertook to revisit the unimplemented recommendations of the 2003 Review of Veterans' Entitlements (the 2003 Clarke Review) which were not acted upon by the previous government. One of these recommendations related to nuclear test participation by Australian defence personnel.

On 11 May 2010, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, the Hon Alan Griffin MP, announced that the Government had accepted the Clarke recommendation to provide Australian defence personnel who participated in the BNT program in Australia, with access to the VEA for any conditions related to their BNT service.

The legislative amendment enabling this measure was given Royal Assent on 29 June 2010.

Existing Compensation and Benefits available to BNT participants

Up until now, former defence personnel who have suffered an illness/injury or death which is accepted as related to their nuclear test participation, have had access to compensation and health care benefits under the Safety, Rehabilitiation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA).

Former Defence personnel may also be eligible for a White Card for non-liability health care treatment for all malignant neoplasms providing they satisfy the definition of a nuclear test participant as defined in the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act 2006.

How will BNT service be recognised in the VEA?

A new category of service under Part IV of the VEA, titled BNT Defence Service, has been created to enable this change. As such, successful BNT Defence Service claimants will be recogised under the VEA as members of the Defence Force under the VEA rather than 'veterans'.

How will claims be processed?

Claimants must have rendered BNT Defence Service as specified in Part IV of the VEA in order for a claim to be considered on the basis of this service alone. In order to make this determination requirement, the claims assessor must be satisfied on the basis of the applicant's service records and other relevant information.

Claims will be determined based on service, medical and other relevant evidence and each claim will be considered on its individual merit. Once it is established that BNT Defence Service has been rendered, the delegate will then need to determine a link between the claimant's BNT service (eg. the tasks they undertook) and their injury/disease.  All possible causes of the injury/disease will be investigated for a possible relationship to BNT Defence service. In all cases where one exists, the question of a causal relationship to service will be decided with reference to the Statements of Principles (SoPs) under the more generous 'reasonable hypothesis' standard of proof under section 120 (1) or (2) of the VEA.

Any complex cases relating to BNT Defence Service should be referred to the Liability and Service Eligibility Section, Rehabilitation and Entitlements Policy Group, via email for advice.

What benefits will successful claimants receive?

Successful claimants will be eligible for benefits equivalent to those available for non-warlike or hazardous service, such as:

  • disability pensions and health care treatment for conditions related to service (Gold Cards may be issued to claimants who become eligible for disability pension at or above the 100 per cent general rate);
  • war widow/er's pensions and Gold Cards for widow/ers whose partner died of service?related conditions, or where he/she was in receipt of a certain type of disability pension (such as special rate pension) at the time of death; and
  • Orphan's pension and Gold cards for dependant children whose parent/s death is accepted under the VEA as related to BNT Defence service.

Successful BNT Defence Service claimants will also be eligible for free treatment under sections 85(2) and 88A of the VEA if diagnosed with any one of the following conditions:

  • malignant cancer;
  • pulmonary tuberculosis;
  • post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • anxiety; and
  • depression.

Other allowances and benefits may be payable subject to meeting applicable criteria.

What happens if the claimant has/is receiving benefits under the SRCA?

Normal offsetting provisions will apply to any payment made under the VEA in respect of an injury/disease or death which has already been accepted as related to BNT Defence Service under the SRCA.


If you have any further queries relating to this Departmental Instruction, please contact Jacqui Blackall on x16451.

Adam Luckhurst

National Manager

Rehabiliation & Entitlements Policy

16 September 2010