Australian War Widows NSW welcomes the recommendations made by the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal to acknowledge the sacrifices made by veteran families through medallic and emblematic recognition.
For the first time in the history of the Australian Defence Force, the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal (Tribunal) recommends that the family of a member who dies in service or has suffered serious injury, be recognised by a Memorial Star or Gratitude Star emblem, pending endorsement from the Government.
These are two of four new forms of recognition recommended by the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal, yet to be endorsed and implemented by the Government.
AWWNSW advocates for veteran families
Australian War Widows NSW Ltd (AWWNSW) sought the views of its members and veteran community to write a submission to the Tribunal for an inquiry into the recognition of Australian Defence Force members and families wounded or killed as a result of service.
These views helped shape a case by AWWNSW to the Tribunal stating that families deserve greater and common recognition across Defence that would also help to unite the community of those affected by death and injury in service. The submission sought the Tribunal to consider recognition for veterans, including deceased veterans, to be medallic in nature. These views were supported by other contributors from the veteran community.
“Recognition at its core, is not only acknowledging the validity of something, but also about identifying those with like experiences. It is a positive and powerful influence in the veteran community. It enables acceptance, conversations, community identification and help seeking.
We are very pleased and proud that our submission to the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal has been recognised in some of the recommendations put forward”
Renee Wilson, Chief Executive Officer Australian War Widows NSW Ltd.
Our nation currently acknowledges the wounding, injury or death of members of the Australian Defence Force through essential care, compensation and support. None are currently reflected in a medallic form of recognition as a suitable solemn and individual emblem of gratitude*.
Under Recommendation 1, the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal endorse the institution of new forms of medallic and emblematic recognition including:
- a Memorial Star – A full size brooch-like emblem of a uniquely Australian design that recognises the sacrifice of the family of a member of the ADF or veteran who dies in service or whose death is service related; and
- a Gratitude Star – A full size brooch-like emblem of uniquely Australian design to recognise the sacrifice of the family of the member or veteran who has suffered a serious wound, serious injury or serious disease in or as a result of service.
These and other proposed recommendations are sought retrospectively for services brought about in, or as a result of, service after 2 September 1945. Read the full recommendation here.
The AWWNSW submission also noted that there should be no differentiation between the circumstances that gave rise to the death, injury or wounding during service; and that Australia could lead the world in reducing the stigma surrounding veterans’ mental and moral injuries and illnesses.
Renee Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of Australian War Widows NSW appeared at a public hearing in relation to the submission and recalled the impact of service on veterans’ families – those affected many years after service, and those missing their loved ones from war or sadly from suicide.
The definition of family
Much like AWWNSW has broadened its definition of family, so too has the Tribunal. In their letter of transmission, the Defence Honours & Awards Appeals states “Family” should be defined flexibly so as to recognise the changed and changing nature of family structures in modern society and cultural sensitivities and should include:
- biological, adoptive, step and foster parents;
- de jure and de facto spouses of any gender;
- biological, adopted, step and foster children;
- all other blood relatives or relatives by marriage; and
- other persons for whom a member has expressed a family-like relationship in their will or similar document.
Veteran families bare an enormous burden for Australia. The role of families is critical when it comes to supporting the Australian Defence Force and its operations. It is a lifelong role that does not end when that member is no longer in service due to death, wounding, injury or illness. This emblematic recognition of our nation’s gratitude serves as acknowledgement of this burden.
Australian War Widows NSW is a 75-year-old organisation that has represented the interests of women impacted by defence service. With a recently expanded charter, AWWNSW provides support and advocacy to women and family members related to the veteran community. AWWNSW provides a voice for members and veteran community to ensure their views are represented across areas that impact upon them.