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Allotted For Duty

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Allotted for Duty

VEA section 5B(2)

For an individual to have operational service or qualifying service from service in an operational area (set out in Schedule 2 of the VEA), they (or their unit or ship) must have been allotted for duty in that area in addition to having actually served there.

This pathway to operational and qualifying service is only relevant to service up to approximately 1997, after which time service which meets similar criteria has instead been declared warlike service (which attracts the same benefits under the VEA). The term allotted for duty is not used in relation to warlike service.  However, the term assigned for service or assigned for duty is generally used to refer to the official Defence Force process by which a person or their unit is allocated to a military operation that has been declared warlike.  

It should be noted that service in earlier conflicts may involve a combination of allotment for duty and Warlike Service. For example, all service in the Vietnam War prior to 12 January 1973 requires a person or their unit to be allotted for duty in the operational area, but service from 12 January 1973 to 29 April 1975 in the Southern Zone of Vietnam is Warlike Service.

What does it mean to be allotted for duty?

Being allotted for duty is a formal process that involves a person or their unit or ship being included in an instrument of allotment issued expressly for use in determining eligibility under the VEA.  An instrument of allotment is produced via the Australian Defence Force and signed either by the Vice Chief of the Defence Force or the Minister for Defence (or the Minister’s representative) depending on the specific item of Schedule 2 to which it refers.  The task of allotting or assigning personnel for duty rests with the Service Chiefs.

An instrument of allotment is entirely separate from standard Defence personnel processes, meaning that a person having been placed, posted or allocated to a unit or a location, or a record in their service file indicating that they were so placed, posted or allocated, does not qualify as being allotted for duty.

Background to Allotment

The concept of being allotted for duty was introduced into legislation to provide for post-World War II service, for which the World War II qualifying service criteria were not entirely appropriate.  The intention was to provide qualifying service in relation to service with similar characteristics to World War II qualifying service.  World War II qualifying service generally required that a person incurred danger from hostile forces of the enemy while engaged in operations against the enemy.  These specific criteria were not necessarily applicable to post World War II service in which there may not be a direct or acknowledged enemy.

The concept of incurring danger while engaged in operations against the enemy originated as the definition of ‘service in a theatre of war’ for the purpose of service pension eligibility in relation to service in World War I. This ‘theatre of war’ concept was then adopted for World War II.  For practical reasons, guidelines were developed by the Repatriation Commission defining areas and dates for the purposes of indicating service in World War II that would automatically be accepted as meeting this test. All cases not falling within those guidelines then had to be determined on a case-by-case basis applying the ‘theatre of war’ test in its terms (i.e. requiring evidence of both personal danger and engagement in operations against the enemy). As far as can be ascertained, no qualifying service in relation to World War II was ever conceded for any service rendered after 29 October 1945.

In 1950, with the Korean and Malayan situations arising within days of each other, eligibility for Repatriation benefits had to be considered as a matter of urgency. It was considered inappropriate to use the definition of 'theatre of war' that had applied for the World Wars because there was no formal 'enemy'. In the case of Malaya the fight was against a communist insurgency and in the case of Korea there was no formal declaration of war and Australia did not at that time recognise the Peoples Republic of China.

This meant that a different method of determining eligibility for service pension had to be found. The concept of 'allotment for duty in an operational area' was created to fill the gap. It was considered that an 'operational area' would be prescribed only if the military situation in the relevant area were such that it warranted being prescribed (that is, the existence of danger from hostile forces against whom Australian forces were engaging in military operations). This supposition maintained a link to the incurred danger test, but there was no need for the test to be satisfied on an individual basis. In effect, the onus of the test being met was placed on the decision makers when determining an operational area. There was no need for there to be a formal ‘enemy’ as that term is understood in international law given the different nature of the conflicts in which Australian forces were engaged.

Eligibility arising from allotment

Because of its official nature, being allotted for duty via an instrument of allotment has sometimes resulted in a mistaken belief that all eligibility requirements under the VEA have been met.  This is not the case.

For a person to have access to entitlements associated with operational or qualifying service under the VEA, there are additional requirements that need to be met.  In addition to being allotted for duty, a person must have:

Timeframe for Eligibility

An operational area in Schedule 2 of the VEA includes both a geographical location and a period during which the area was considered operational.  In order for a person who was allotted for duty in an operational area to have qualifying service or operational service they only need to have rendered service (or in the case of operational service, continuous full-time service) in the area at some point within the relevant timeframe. There are no minimum time requirements; a single day (or even a lesser period) in the relevant geographic area (while allotted for duty there) will allow an individual to be considered to have rendered qualifying service or operational service.  There are several examples of people whose qualifying service stems from their presence on an aircraft or a ship that passed into an operational area (regardless of the time period), providing they or their unit was allotted or assigned for duty. 

Who is included in an instrument of allotment?

A person can either be allotted for duty as an individual or as a member of a unit.  Where a unit is allotted, it is important to understand who may be considered to be a member of that unit.

A member of a unit of the Defence Force may include not only a member of the Defence Force, but also others (such as civilians) who were at the time of the unit’s allotment for duty/assignment for service:

Attached to the unit

For a person to be considered to be attached to a unit, they must have been attached according to the specific definition of the term in military parlance.  This includes a requirement for an official attachment order or notice of attachment and that the attached individual comes under the same (military) command as all other members of the unit. The following definition is from the Australian Defence Force and defines being attached as:

The placement of units or personnel in an organisation where such placement is relatively temporary. Subject to limitations imposed in the attachment order, the commander of the formation, unit or organisation receiving the attachment will exercise the same degree of command and control thereover as he does over the units and personnel organic to his command.

It is important to note that simply serving in the same place as members of the Defence Force does not constitute being attached to that unit.

Allotted for Duty versus Assigned for Service

The term assigned for service is related to allotted for duty and due to the similarity between the terms, confusion can arise around their interaction.

The term assigned for service is used to refer to two different processes: 

  1. Under the VEA, assigned for service has a specific meaning within the legislation, and relates to some specific post World War II operational service set out in sections 6D(1) and 6E of the VEA.Despite the similarity between the terms, the term assigned for service within the legislation has a separate meaning from allotted for duty and operates in parallel with allotment as a separate pathway to operational service for service over a similar period.
  2. Assigned for service (or other variants such as assigned for duty or assigned to [operation]) is also a non-legislative term used to refer to the official process by which a person or their unit is allocated to a military operation.  In order to determine whether a person has warlike service from an operation that has been declared to be warlike, their service record needs to show that they or their unit was assigned for service on that operation. This usage of the term assigned for service can be seen as the successor of allotted for duty, in the same way as declarations of warlike service have superseded the use of operational areas.

Assigned for Service – Warlike Service (POST ALLOTMENT)

For a member of the ADF to render qualifying service under the banner of warlike service, the usual method is that the operation is declared warlike, the member is force assigned (or assigned for service) to the relevant operation and the member must then actually serve in the area of operations.

No formal instrument is required to establish assignment for warlike service. Generally, warlike service will be recorded on a member’s service documents.  Where there is doubt, Defence is able to advise as to whether a member was assigned for warlike service.

Assigned for Service – Other Operational Service (CONTEMPORARY TO ALLOTMENT)

Under the VEA, as with allotment for duty, a person (or the unit of which they were a member) may be assigned for service via an instrument issued by the Department of Defence.  A person or unit can be assigned for service only in relation to the following areas and dates set out in sections 6D(1) and 6E of the VEA:

  • Singapore at any time from 29 June 1950 to 31 August 1957 (inclusive); or
  • Japan at any time from 28 April 1952 to 19 April 1956 (inclusive); or
  • North East Thailand (including Ubon) at any time during from 28 July 1962 to 24 June 1965 (inclusive); or
  • North East Thailand (not including Ubon) at any time from 31 May 1962 to 27 July 1962; or
  • the demilitarised zone between North Korea and South Korea after 18 April 1956; or
  • HMA Ship Vampire or Quickmatch in Vietnam at any time from 25 January 1962 to 29 January 1962 (inclusive).

On its own, being assigned for service in relation to sections 6D(1) and 6E of the VEA does not provide eligibility for services and entitlements under the VEA. To be considered to have operational service under the VEA, in addition to being assigned for service in the specified areas between the specified dates, a person must:

  • Have actually served in the specified area within the specified period; and
  • Rendered continuous full-time service while serving in the specified area within the specified period.

Visitors to an operational area

Being present in an operational area does not on its own meet service requirements under the VEA.  This means that any visitors to an operational area do not have eligibility to lodge a claim under the VEA unless they have also been allotted for duty in the operational area and (for operational service) have rendered continuous full-time service in that area.  Allotment is at the discretion of the Australian Defence Force and it is generally unlikely that a visitor will be allotted. 

The only current exception is in relation to certain visitors to operational areas in Vietnam (items 4 and 8 of schedule 2) who have been allotted for duty. These include those on staff inspection, equipment inspection, Attaché duties or public relations, familiarisation or welfare visits.

Any claims relating to visitors to operational areas should be referred to the Liability and Service Eligibility section for consultation with the Department of Defence.


While those undertaking Attaché duties in operational areas in Vietnam have been allotted for duty, the otherwise consistent Defence view is that Defence Attachés are not to be allotted or assigned for duty. One of the reasons for this position is that whilst there is no one rule of international law which prohibits the force assignment of accredited defence staff, it is not consistent with the spirit of the Convention (the convention being the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 which governs in international law, the status and accreditation of diplomatic staff, including Defence Attachés).  Additionally, the policy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been clearly stated, that they only provide diplomatic accreditation to officers performing diplomatic functions at overseas embassies and that the function of a Defence Attaché is liaison between the armed forces of the two countries.

There is one exception to the principle that Defence Attachés are not allotted or assigned for duty, which relates to certain Defence staff during the Australian deployment to East Timor in 1999, However,  the circumstances of these four Attachés were regarded as unique and did not create a precedent..

On Exercises

Australian Defence Force members who enter a declared operational area for the sole purpose of participation in an exercise, are not eligible for allotment for duty to the operation in respect of which the operational area has been declared.

Example: Clearance Diving Team 1 in Vietnam

Clearance Diving Team 1 (CDT 1) has been allotted for duty in the operational area of Vietnam for a short period in 1966, but questions have been raised over SEATO training Exercise Sea Spirit in which they participated between 29 May and 7 June 1965.  This issue has been investigated by the Nature of Service (NOS) Directorate, Department of Defence. It was found that while CDT 1 was on board USS Catskill for the purposes of Exercise Sea Spirit when the ship closed with the coast of Vietnam for a rendezvous with USS Peacock.  CDT 1 did not undertake any clearance diving manoeuvres while in this area, and nor was the Exercise or their participation in it connected to the conduct of the Vietnam War.  It was found that CDT 1’s participation in Exercise Sea Spirit did not render them eligible for allotment for duty in the Vietnam operational area.

Example: Snowgum Force on Exercise Ramasoon in Thailand

In 1968 in Thailand ADF members participated in Exercise Ramasoon.  This was a SEATO command post exercise to test communications between the forces of SEATO member countries.  The Australian forces participating in the exercise were designated Snowgum Force. They were based at Yasothon and used only for purposes associated with Australian participation in the exercise.

Service as part of Exercise Ramasoon does not currently provide access to the VEA, because members were not allotted for duty in an operational area under the VEA. This is because while it was conducted in an operational area, it was not related to the war effort at that time. 

Following a Review by Defence in 2001, service with Exercise Ramasoon was not reclassified because it involved neither the pursuit of military objectives, nor active operations against an enemy. The Review of Veterans’ Entitlements also considered the circumstances of Exercise Ramasoon and concluded that “Forces involved in any peacetime exercise, regardless of the area of the exercise and the presence or otherwise of forces undertaking warlike or non-warlike service, are engaged in peacetime service.”

Some members of this group have sought qualifying service on the basis that they served in a warlike area of operations and that they received the Australian Active Service Medal (AASM) 1945-75 with Clasp ‘Thailand’ and the Returned from Active Service Badge. The Department of Defence advises that these awards for service on Exercise Ramasoon were probably made in error, and that the service should more properly attract the ASM 1945-75 with Clasp ‘South-East Asia’. The ASM 1945-75 recognises service in certain areas in South-East Asia other than warlike service during the period 1955 to 1989.

The award of these medals should not be used as evidence of qualifying or operational service.

Midshipmen undergoing training during the Vietnam War

Where documentation is available to support the applicant's assertion, a Midshipman undergoing training on an allotted vessel in an operational area during the Vietnam War, may be considered to be a member of that ship's company for the purposes of Repatriation benefits, notwithstanding that their service records may reflect a posting to a different unit.

National Servicemen on HMAS Sydney

HMAS Sydney has been allotted for duty for service in the operational area of Malaya (item 2 of Schedule 2, VEA) from 21-28 September 1956 and again from 2-13 October 1956.  Those who served on the ship included 203 of the 316 members of the Blaxland II intake of National Servicemen.  The Department has not been able to obtain official information identifying which 203 members of the Blaxland II intake were the ones on HMAS Sydney, however those 203 can be considered to be members of the unit comprising HMAS Sydney, meaning they were allotted for duty along with the ship.  These members therefore have operational service and qualifying service under the VEA.

Blaxland II national servicemen were administratively under HMAS Penguin even while serving on HMAS Sydney, as were those who did not serve on HMAS Sydney, and as a result their service records do not contain a reference to HMAS Sydney and there is nothing in official records to differentiate between the two groups.  Previous determinations in relation to these individuals have depended on evidence such as letters home from HMAS Sydney and certificates from a ‘crossing the equator’ ceremony.  Statutory Declarations from those who have already had their presence on HMAS Sydney established can also be considered as evidence in determining whether a member of the Blaxland II intake was present on HMAS Sydney for the purposes of operational and qualifying service.  

There was also a Blaxland I intake of national servicemen.  It has been established that only certain Blaxland II servicemen had any service on HMAS Sydney.

Ships Delivering Supplies (‘National Tasking’)

In some cases, individuals who served on ships that delivered items to areas in which a declared warlike operation was underway have believed their service on that ship to have been warlike service.  In order for a person or ship to have warlike service, they or their unit or ship must have been assigned to the warlike operation through internal Defence processes.

The Department of Defence’s position is that ships that are Australian owned and tasked solely with transporting military or humanitarian stores to areas in which a military operation involving Australian Defence personnel is underway come under the category of ‘national tasking’.  This means that the nature of the ship’s interaction with the operation is as a transport ship used in its intended capacity to transport items without any involvement with hostile forces or danger above the norm for shipping activities.  In these cases, the ship is not assigned to the operation, and those on the ship are not considered to have served on the operation.

Two ships specifically investigated and found to be in this category are HMAS Tobruk, which transported supplies to East Timor during Operation Warden (but was not assigned to Operation Warden) and HMAS Jervis Bay which transported supplies to East Timor during Operation Tanager (but was not assigned to Operation Tanager).  A complicating factor is that members on these vessels may have been awarded service medals for the above activity and/or had the operation recorded on their service record.  These cases should be referred to L&SE for discussion with Defence to ascertain whether the member may have other eligibility.  If the only involvement with the operation was on the national tasking the member does not have warlike service.

Service in Japan during the Korean War

Japan is not in the Korean War operational area, but Australian units based in Japan during the Korean War were allotted for duty in Korea. Of those allotted, only those who actually entered the operational area comprising Korea and Korean waters have qualifying service, as allotment alone does not provide access to VEA entitlements. Those who do have qualifying service will also have operational service for their period in Korea or Korean waters and from port to port.

Example: HMAS Vengeance

HMAS Vengeance was allotted for duty in Korea from 27 October 1954 to 3 December 1954.  The ship travelled from Australia to Japan in order to pick up aircraft and personnel of No. 77 Squadron and transport them back to Australia. During this trip, HMAS Vengeance did not enter the operational area.  This means that despite being allotted for duty, service on HMAS Vengeance is not qualifying service as it does not meet the requirement to have also entered the operational area.

While service on HMAS Vengeance is not qualifying service, it is operational service under the VEA, as HMAS Vengeance was assigned for service under section 6D(1) of the VEA via a 1998 instrument.  Section 6D(1) provides operational service where an individual or unit was assigned for service in a relevant area.  It does not provide qualifying service.

Service in Singapore during the Malayan Emergency (29 June 1950 to 31 August 1957)

Item 2 of Schedule 2 of the VEA sets out the operational area applicable to the Malayan Emergency.  The operational area does not include Singapore.  Some Australian units stationed in Singapore during the relevant period were allotted for duty in the operational area.  However, not all of them entered the operational area and therefore, despite being allotted for duty in the operational area, they do not have qualifying service.  Only those who left Singapore and actually entered the operational area have qualifying service.