You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Defence to review 100 withheld medal cases

AAP logoAAP 23/12/2016 Lisa Martin

A tribunal is set to review historical cases of Australian defence force personnel whose war medals were withheld or forfeited.

Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan said 100 applications would be reviewed and the majority concerned those who had served during the Second World War.

"Each application will be considered with respect and sensitivity, on a case-by-case basis, supported by a thorough analysis of available evidence and records," Mr Tehan said in a statement.

The decision follows the release of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal inquiry report into withholding or forfeiture of defence honours and awards since 1939, which made five recommendations.

At the end of their service some veterans missed out on their medals for reasons such as disobeying routine orders or overstaying time away from their units.

"In many cases this was not due to cowardice, aiding the enemy or a failure to perform their duty in fighting the enemy," the report said.

"Rather, it was because they failed a different test - the test of discipline."

The tribunal heard evidence that those who did not receive their medals had been badly affected and tended to avoid all situations where questions would be asked about their war service such as returned servicemen's clubs and Anzac Day commemorations.

"Quite likely the humiliation of being denied medals contributed further to a sense of isolation and shame that would have seemed inexplicable to those who did not know their story," the report said.

Although medals were worth little in monetary terms they pay respect and acknowledge what an individual gave in the service of their country, the report said.

"To anyone who has ever served, a medal spiritually connects the wearer to all those who served beside them, the living and the dead," the report said.

The tribunal recommended any injustices could be overcome by gifting withheld or forfeited medals to the veteran or if they are deceased, their family.

The gifting of medals would not require Defence to overturn decisions of the past rather it would reflect a change in attitude based on today's values, the report said.

However, the tribunal does not believe it would be appropriate to gift medals that were forfeited on a mandatory basis by those who committed treason, mutiny, sabotage of allied assets, aiding the enemy or serious terrorism offences.

The practice of withholding medals rarely happens these days.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon