In the event of the death of an ADF member while in service, Defence will provide emotional and practical support to the deceased member’s family. Bereavement Support is offered to all bereaved Defence families when a member dies while serving, regardless of the cause of the member’s death.
Families of deceased members have the choice of whether or not to receive support from a DCO Bereavement Support Team (BST). Regardless of the family’s decision, Defence can still provide a financial contribution towards the funeral costs.
A BST consists of a Defence Social Worker, who provides emotional support and practical advice, and a Military Support Officer who can assist with the funeral arrangements and guide the family through the necessary military administration.
The BST works in conjunction with the member’s unit, ADF Chaplains and other relevant areas of Defence to give the family all the 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 services, contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.
All military personnel are responsible for updating their information in Defence’s personnel management system, otherwise known as PMKeyS. In fact, it’s mandatory that they review and amend their next of kin (NOK) and emergency contacts when their personal situation changes, when they’re deployed or posted, or at minimum annually.
We also strongly encourage serving members to have a current Will and power of attorney in place, and to send their Will to DCO for storage.
A member’s NOK, is their closest living relative. A member’s Primary Emergency Contact (PEC) is the person who Defence will notify if the ADF member dies, is seriously injured or ill or is missing. Members should also record additional emergency contacts in PMKeyS in case the PEC cannot be contacted.
Accuracy of ADF members’ personal information is very important because it guides the provision of family support and information in emergencies. Inaccurate or out of date information can delay assistance when it may be needed urgently.
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.
Being clear on NOK and emergency contacts can go a long way to assisting in the family’s preparedness for dealing with emergencies. Please take the time to have the important discussion regarding who is best placed to be your emergency contacts and ensure PMKeyS is updated accordingly.
When a loved one dies there are many decisions and arrangements that may require your consideration. The Bereavement Support Team (BST) can guide you through these practical concerns, including assisting you to access entitlements and provisions available to you.
The BST discusses funeral options with your family, and the MSO can assist you to coordinate the funeral and burial arrangements.
In most cases, Defence contributes a fixed amount towards the costs of a military or private funeral service. The contribution may also assist with other items, such as floral and non-floral tributes and commemoration in the form of a plaque or headstone.
A person who was financially dependent upon the ADF member may be entitled to Bereavement Payments. The purpose of these payments is to provide short-term financial support. This assistance consists of four fortnightly payments of the member’s salary and is tax-exempt. 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. There may also be additional payments, such as leave entitlements and balance of salary, dependent on individual circumstances.
All Defence members are encouraged to make a Will. If the member’s Will has been stored at DCO, the original copy will be forwarded to the Executor of the Will. Where a member’s Will is stored external to DCO the member is encouraged to advise Defence of its location.
DCO also coordinates the storage, removal and release of the member’s personal effects located on Commonwealth property in consultation with the NOK/Executor of the Will.
Bereavement support team
A human service professional from DCO’s Defence Family Helpline will contact the family after the death of a member to offer certain services, including the services of a Bereavement Support Team (BST) who are able to provide the bereaved family with tailored practical and emotional support. A BST is made up of a Defence Social Worker and a Military Support Officer (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 aspects of the death, and assists with practical arrangements for the administration of the member’s entitlements and the funeral, in close communication with the member’s unit and Chaplain.
The BST links your family into useful agencies such as Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, as well as community resources that may meet your needs.
Families are able to choose the level of military involvement during 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 can receive support from the BST for six months, or longer depending on your needs and the social worker’s assessment.