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Defence Community Organisation

For ADF members and their families

1800 624 608

Emergency & crisis support

DCO provides a range of practical and emotional support programs for families facing emergency or crisis, including assistance in times of illness, injury, domestic crisis or bereavement.

Families can also seek support or referrals any time from the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.

DCO's support services should not be used as a substitute for Triple-Zero emergency services.

If you need support or advice at any time, day or night, you can contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608. The Helpline operates 24-7 and is staffed by qualified human services professionals including social workers and psychologists, who can provide you with assessment, assistance or referral.

Illness or injury

If an ADF member is hospitalised through illness or injury while away from home for Service reasons, a nominated family member or close friend can access financial assistance to visit and support them. This is called the Australians Dangerously Ill Scheme (AUSDIL).

When is assistance provided?

AUSDIL assistance is provided when the member has been hospitalised for serious or life-threatening injury or illness, including mental health conditions.

A parent or guardian may also visit an ADF member under 18 who requires medical treatment (the member doesn't have to be seriously ill in this case).

A medical professional must have advised that the nominated person's support would positively benefit the member's wellbeing or recovery. The medical professional and the member’s commanding officer will initiate the request.

What assistance is provided?

Approved visitors will have their travel costs covered, including transport, accommodation, meals and travel insurance for visits overseas.

When the nominated person cannot travel without a carer or appropriate support (for example, if the person is physically handicapped or elderly), we also cover the costs for an attendant of their choice to accompany them.

Approval for any one visit is usually up to seven consecutive days, and normally only one visitor per member may be approved for any one illness or injury.

What else does DCO do?

In addition to organising transport and accommodation for the visiting person, DCO can assist with other practical concerns like administration or liaising with units and medical personnel.

We can also provide emotional and practical support to the family in the form of social work and counselling, advice on the care and rehabilitation of the ADF member, or referral to appropriate community support and services.

More information

Call the all-hours Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608 for any queries about AUSDIL or the support available.

More details about AUSDIL are outlined in the Defence Casualty and Bereavement Support Manual.

Domestic violence

DCO can provide temporary 'safe house' accommodation for the dependants of ADF members in situations of domestic violence, where the family members cannot remain in the home and have no available alternatives for accommodation. You should consider other appropriate accommodation first, such as staying with friends or family or on base.

You can initiate a request for SAFE by contacting the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608. The Helpline is available 24 hours a day, and staff can provide you with other support or referral you need.

Domestic or family violence can take many forms and can be damaging psychologically and emotionally as well as physically for the abused person. If you find yourself in an abusive situation, seek help.

For emergency situations that require immediate attention, call Triple zero emergency services. There are also several 24-hour telephone support services you can call for assistance:

  • Lifeline is a national 24-hour support line which provides crisis support and mental health services for the cost of a local call from landlines or free from mobiles.
    131 114
    Lifeline website

  • Kids Help Line is a free, and anonymous 24-hour telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people 5-25 years old.
    1800 551 800
    Kids Help Line website

  • Mensline Australia is a national 24-hour service for men, providing support, information or referral by telephone or online.
    1300 789 978
    Mensline Australia website

  • Violence Against Women Helpline is a 24-hour helpline specialising in counselling and referrals for women who experience domestic violence or sexual assault.
    1800 200 526

  • The ADF Mental Health All Hours Support Line provides mental health and wellbeing advice for ADF members and their families.
    1800 628 036

Defence Family and Domestic Violence Strategy

Family and domestic violence are complex issues and tackling them requires coordinated, comprehensive and long-term initiatives. The Defence Family and Domestic Violence Strategy vision is for a Defence community that is safe and free from violence, and committed and ready to respond effectively to support those affected by violence whether they are people subjected to violence, people using violence or bystanders.

The objectives of the strategy are to:

  • Ensure the safety of those subjected to or affected by the use of family and domestic violence
  • provide those subjected to or affected by family and domestic violence with appropriate immediate supports and referral to professional services
  • provide Defence personnel with the skills, knowledge and confidence to identify people subjected to and affected by family and domestic violence and respond effectively to their needs
  • promote accurate understanding of family and domestic violence and its impact on the workplace.

Related: Defence Family and Domestic Violence Strategy


Where there is a crisis, illness, injury or death in the family, the ADF member may receive special provisions and support from Defence. This is termed compassionate consideration, and may include granting the ADF member compassionate leave, travel costs, special return to Australia or their unit, or cancellation or alteration of a posting order.

When is compassionate consideration given?

ADF members may be eligible for compassionate consideration when experiencing the death or life-threatening illness or injury of a close relative, urgent personal circumstances, or serious problems in domestic or financial affairs at home when their presence would improve the situation.

When these issues arise, the first thing the ADF member should do is discuss their circumstances with their supervisor or immediate superior, who will be able to provide guidance or advice about support available and can start the process to grant compassionate support.

In the case of illness or injury of the ADF member, there is support available through AUSDIL.

Social work reports

DCO provides advice, assessments and reports for Command to help with their decision-making in regard to compassionate consideration or the welfare of Defence families. The reports give Command as much professional and objective information as possible to help them make the best decision for all parties.

When Command requests an assessment, a Defence Social Worker will talk with the member and their family, gather any supporting documentation required and compile a report. The report will give the supervising or Commanding Officer a picture of your family’s situation and recommendations for support to be provided. The assessment and reporting process is conducted in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 .

Related: Command

Compassionate support

Support given for an emergency situation can include compassionate leave allowances, assistance for travel within Australia, and special returns to Australia (where the member is posted or deployed overseas) or the member's unit (where the member is on training or exercise).

For longer term compassionate issues, where the nature of the problem may be ongoing or prolonged rather than a crisis or emergency, Command may cancel or alter the member’s posting order (usually for a specified period). In the Navy this is referred to as a Compassionate Posting, in Army a COPAS Report, and in Air Force a Request for Preferential Treatment.


DCO provides short-term financial assistance to an ADF member's dependants in an emergency situation.

This support is given when the member is absent from home for Service reasons or unable to care for their dependants for a medical reason.

To qualify for assistance, the emergency event must be unforeseen, sudden and be beyond the immediate coping mechanisms of your family.

Support available

A Defence Social Worker will assess the extent of the emergency and your family’s needs, and develop a support plan in partnership with the member’s unit.

Depending on the social worker's recommendations, you may receive assistance for dependant care, specialist dependant care, housekeeping, child minding, respite care or travel for immediate family to provide support for the dependants.

The social worker will also develop a longer term strategy to ensure the wellbeing of your family for the remainder of the member’s absence.

How to apply

The ADF member, their dependants or the member’s Commanding Officer can apply for emergency support for the family by contacting the Defence Family Helpline at or on 1800 624 608.

The application form must be completed and signed for the assistance to be provided.

All emergency financial assistance will attract Fringe Benefits Tax for the ADF member. As these amounts can be significant and may affect other payments or benefits received, we strongly recommend you seek independent financial advice before applying for assistance.

As these amounts can be significant and may affect other payments or benefits received, we strongly recommend you seek independent financial advice before applying for assistance.

Related: Finance