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Tuesday, 24 February 1981
Page: 67

(Question No. 57)


Senator Walsh asked the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, upon notice, on 26 November 1980:

(1) Are personnel who served for six months or more on Rottnest Island between 3 September 1939 and 5 May 1944 deemed to have served in a theatre of war, and are they eligible for ex-service benefits.

(2) Are some of the these benefits denied to Royal Australian Air Force members who operated aircraft out of Darwin to islands off the Australian coast during that same period; if so, what is the rationale for this apparent anomaly.


Senator Messner —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) For a person to be eligible to receive a Service pension, which is similar to the age and invalid pensions paid by the Department of Social Security and which is subject broadly to the same income test, he must have served in a theatre of war or, in the case of a female, served in a theatre of war, served abroad or embarked for service abroad.

Service in a theatre of war is defined in section 23 of the Repatriation Act 1920 as follows-

'' 'Served in a theatre of war' means served at sea, in the field or in the air, in naval, military or aerial operations against the enemy in an area, or on an aircraft or ship of war, at a time when danger from hostile forces of the enemy was incurred in that area or on that aircraft or ship of war by the person so serving''.

The Repatriation Commission has established certain guidelines, which relate in essence to recorded enemy activity in and around certain areas, for the application of this definition. In respect of service on Rottnest Island, the requirement is that a veteran must have served for a continuous period of not less than 3 months on the island between 3 September 1939 and 4 May 1944.

(2) Airmen who operated aircraft out of Darwin to islands contiguous to the coast, will be deemed to have served in a theatre of war if-

(i) between 3 September 1939 and 3 September 1945 they served in an aircraft which engaged in operations against the enemy or on reconnaissance or patrol duty over enemy occupied territory; or

(ii) between 19 February 1942 and 12 November 1943 they served for a continuous period of not less than three months in the Northern Territory north of parallel 14.5* south latitude or any of the islands contiguous to that part of the Northern Territory; or

(iii) at any time during the war they incurred actual danger from hostile forces.

If they served in an aircraft which did not engage in operations against the enemy or in reconnaissance or patrol duty over enemy occupied territory, they would not qualify under the first provision above.

Although it is recorded that islands such as Bathurst and Melville were attacked by Japanese aircraft on their way to the first bombing raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942 and that one or two Japanese aircraft were either shot down or crash landed on the islands, the islands were not enemy occupied. Therefore reconnaissance flights over the islands could not be considered as patrols over enemy occupied territory.

In setting down guidelines, it is recognised that it is not possible to cover every possible situation that may arise. However, this does not automatically preclude from entitlement to benefits any person whose service does not come within the guidelines. All such cases are considered on their individual merits.