In the event of the death of an ADF member while in service, Defence provides emotional and practical support to the family within 24 hours, through a Bereavement Support Team. This support is given to all bereaved Defence families, regardless of the cause of the member’s death.
The support team works in conjunction with the member’s unit, ADF Chaplains and other relevant areas of Defence to give the family all necessary support, guide them through the practical considerations following the death, and connect them to government and community organisations for further support.
For more information about Defence’s bereavement support, contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.
It is very important for ADF members to register their primary emergency contacts, next of kin, dependants and partners on PMKeyS, and keep their details up to date. We also strongly encourage serving members to have a current will and power of attorney in place, and to send their Will to Headquarters DCO for storage.
Defence has recently updated its policy on nominating and recording emergency contact and next of kin information.
A member’s next of kin, or NOK, is their closest living relative. Their emergency contacts (who may also include their NOK) are people who Defence will contact if the member is in an emergency situation.
This is what makes the accuracy of this information so important because it guides the provision of family support and information in emergencies. Inaccurate or out of date information can hamper assistance when it may be needed urgently.
All military personnel are responsible for updating this information in Defence’s personnel management system, otherwise known as ‘PMKeyS’. In fact, it’s mandatory that they review and amend their NOK and emergency contacts when their personal situation changes, when they’re deployed or posted, or at least annually.
People aged under 18 cannot be named as an emergency contact, and military personnel should carefully consider the impact that receiving potentially bad news might have on the physical or mental wellbeing of their nominated emergency contacts.
It is important that families take the time to discuss their preparedness for dealing with emergencies. Being clear on NOK and emergency contacts can go a long way to assisting this.
When a loved one dies there are many decisions and arrangements that may require your consideration. Your support team can guide you through these practical concerns including directing you to entitlements and provisions available to you.
The team discusses funeral options with your family, and the MSO normally coordinates the funeral and burial arrangements on your behalf.
In most cases, Defence covers the reasonable costs of a military or private funeral service. Limited funds are also available for floral and non-floral tributes and commemoration in the form of a plaque or headstone.
Dependants who were financially reliant upon the ADF member may be entitled to a series of Bereavement payments. The purpose of these payments is to provide immediate relief for the loss of the deceased member’s financial support. This assistance consists of four payments of the member’s fortnightly salary and is tax free. Bereavement payments are not compensation, and are separate from the member’s Personal Estate.
DCO can also provide financial assistance for a member’s dependants to travel to the funeral location. This includes return travel expenses, two nights’ accommodation and meals, within reasonable limits. Additional payments, such as leave entitlements, cash-in-effect, balance of salary or compensation depend on individual circumstances.
If the member’s Will has been stored at Headquarters DCO, the MSO forwards the original copy to the proper representative and assists with executing the member’s wishes.
DCO also coordinates the storage, removal, disposal or release of the member’s personal effects in consultation with the family.
The Bereavement Support Team contacts the family within 24 hours, and provides them with tailored practical and emotional support. A Bereavement Support Team is made up of a Defence Social Worker and a Military Support Officer, or MSO.
As every family and every grieving process is different, the social worker assesses your family’s needs and coordinates the bereavement support accordingly. They can provide counselling, advice or referrals as necessary and will be your main point of contact.
The MSO advises your family on the military administration associated with the death, and makes practical arrangements for the administration of the estate and the funeral, in close communication with the member’s unit and Chaplain.
The support team links your family into useful agencies such as ComSuper, Legacy and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs as well as community resources that may meet your needs.
Families may choose the level of military involvement in your grieving process and the funeral, and all of the support team’s actions will reflect and respect your family’s wishes.
Defence staff can also support you through any media interest in the death or any required Commission of Inquiry, providing information and guidance through the process.
Your family usually continues to receive support from the team for up to six months depending on your needs and the social worker’s assessment.