Section 4(1) defines 'dependant' as follows:

'Dependant' in relation to a deceased employee, means:

a)the spouse, parent, step-parent, father-in-law, mother-in-law, grandparent, child, stepchild, grandchild, sibling or half-sibling of the employee, or

b)a person in relation to whom the employee stood in the position of a parent or who stood in the position of a parent to the employee,

being a person who was wholly or partly dependent on the employee at the date of the employee's death.

And in respect to that last clause about a dependant necessarily being wholly or partly dependent on the employee:

'Dependent' means dependent for economic support.

In short, a dependant is an individual within a defined degree of kinship with the deceased, and who was also dependent (either wholly or partly) upon the deceased for financial support at the time of death.  That is, it is not sufficient for a person to have been in one of the relationships specified in the definition of 'dependant'.  In addition to being in one of those relationships, they must also have been wholly or partly dependent on the deceased for economic support on the date of death.

There is no provision for future dependency other than in those circumstances where there is an unborn child identified and accepted as belonging to the deceased employee.

Changes made to definition of' 'dependant' by Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws-General Law Reform) Act 2008

This amending Act, which commenced on 10 December 2008, inserted definitions of the following terms into the SRCA, thereby changing the meaning of the term 'dependant':

  • child and step-child (see 1.17);
  • de facto partner (see 1.21.3);
  • parent which is defined by reference to the definitions of 'child' as follows:

parent: without limiting who is a parent of a person for the purposes of this Act, someone is the parent of a person if the person is his or her child because of the definition of child in this section.

  • step-parent which is defined as follows:

Step-parent: without limiting who is a step-parent of a person for the purposes of this Act, someone who is a de facto partner of a parent of the person is the step-parent of the person if he or she would be the person's step‑parent except that he or she is not legally married to the person's parent.

To the extent that the meanings of these terms have changed, they only apply to payments made under the SRCA on and from 10 December 2008, irrespective of when the death occurred and in respect of lump sum benefits only apply to deaths which occurred on or after that date.  See:1.21 in relation to dependent partners and 1.17 in relation to dependent children.