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16.7 Members 'living-in' (i.e. in Barracks or a Mess) - SRCA


Where a base includes residential barracks, in some cases the barracks will be both the 'place of work' and also the 'place of residence' of that member.

In the case of Comcare v O'Dea (1997) the member was injured in a motor vehicle accident while driving from his parent's home in Traralgon to the base at Bandiana on the day before he was due back to work. As part of his training, he was living in barracks at Bandiana for 12 months and also working there. The Tribunal held that he still 'normally resided' at Traralgon and was 'residing temporarily' at the Training Centre at Bandiana until the completion of his year of training. The member was held to be entitled to compensation under the journey provisions. This was upheld by the Federal Court. Northrop J also commented that if the member had been injured whilst walking from the barracks to the workshop to commence work it would not be treated as a journey claim but the question would be whether the injury arose out of the employee's employment.

An injury arises out of or in the course of employment only where the employee is not only present at the place of work, but is attending 'for the purposes of that employment' (See S6(1)b(i)). Thus, after hours injuries to 'living-in' members are received in their private capacity, and do not arise out of their employment. This is illustrated by Daykin and Department of Defence (1998) where the applicant, who lived in barracks as a matter of choice or convenience, was injured at 5.30pm when he was leaving the mess after having dinner with friends. He had been stood down from duties at 4.30pm that day. Liability was not found in his case.

The Daykin decision demonstrates that members 'living in' for the purposes of ordinary service do not usually have 24 hour compensation coverage, regardless of contentions about the status of the barracks as residence and/or workplace. Nevertheless, there are some exceptional circumstances where 24 hour coverage does apply:

  • Recruit training and some other intensive employment training or promotion courses include a period where the employees are not free to absent themselves from the base. In those limited situations, i.e. for the period where the employee is under restraint and under the control of the employer at all times, 'stand downs' become in effect a temporary interval in an overall period of employment. Twenty-four hour coverage does therefore apply to those relatively rare situations.
  • Note that this reasoning also applies to Navy ships at sea, i.e. 24 hour coverage also applies to that situation. (However, this extension ceases and reverts to coverage only of the individual shift or watch, once the ship has docked).
  • Naturally, ADF members employed on operational service or in a geographic zone declared to be an operational area, also have extended (i.e. 24 hour) coverage.