Service covered under the VEA

Last updated: 
21 January 2020

This page provides information about benefits under the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) for ex-service personnel and other participants who were involved in the nuclear tests at Maralinga, Emu Field and Montebello Islands between 1952 and 1965.

The page also provides information for Australian Federal or Commonwealth Police Officers and Australian Protective Services Officers who patrolled the test area at Maralinga after the test period.

The British Nuclear Test (BNT) Program

During the 1950s and 1960s the British Government conducted tests of nuclear weapons at Maralinga and Emu Field in South Australia and on the Montebello Islands in Western Australia.

Is an ex-service person who was involved in the BNT program entitled to repatriation benefits as a result of that service?

Former members of the Australian armed forces who meet the legislated definition of a BNT participant, are eligible for compensation and health care benefits under the VEA for any condition which relates to their BNT service. Widow(er)s of former members of the Australian armed forces whose death is accepted under the VEA as related to their BNT service are also eligible for war widow(er) benefits. Claims will be determined under the more generous ‘reasonable hypothesis’ standard of proof.

For more information, please refer to: 

Who is an Australian participant in the British Nuclear Test program under the VEA?

The VEA defines BNT participants as persons who were members of the Australian armed forces at the time and were persons who:

  • were in a nuclear test area any time during:
    • 3 October 1952 to 19 June 1958 for the Monte Bello Islands area
    • 15 October 1953 to 25 October 1955 for the Emu Field area
    • 27 September 1956 to 30 April 1965 for the Maralinga area, or
  • were involved in the transport recovery, maintenance or cleaning of a vessel, vehicle, aircraft or equipment that was contaminated as a result of its use in a nuclear test area, that occurred:
Period in which involvement occurred Area where thing was contaminated
Table 1
3 October 1952 and 19 July 1956 The area within 10 kilometres of Main Beach on Trimouille Island in the Monte Bello Archipelago
15 October 1953 and 25 November 1953 The area within 25 kilometres of the Totem test sites at Emu Field
27 September 1956 and 30 May 1963 The area within 40 kilometres of any of the Buffalo or Antler test sites near Maralinga
  • were involved in the transport, recovery, maintenance, or cleaning of an aircraft (or any equipment on or attached to that aircraft) that was contaminated as a result of its use in one of the above nuclear tests (even where the aircraft was outside of the defined test area at the time it was contaminated, for example by flying through the radioactive could after the test), or
  • at any time during the period 3 October 1952 to 31 October 1957 if the person flew in an aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force or the Royal Air Force and the aircraft was used to measure fallout from the nuclear tests and was contaminated by that fallout.

What other compensation schemes cover former BNT participants?

Former Australian armed forces members who participated in the BNT program may also have compensation coverage under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA). For more information about the DRCA, see Overview of the DRCA and How to claim under DRCA.

Compensation offsetting provisions apply if a BNT participant is eligible for compensation under both the VEA and the DRCA, see Disability pension and compensation offsetting.

What compensation is available to those people who were not members of the Australian armed forces?

In addition to members of the Australian armed forces, BNT participants who were Commonwealth Public Servants, Commonwealth Police, Australian Federal Police or Protective Service Officers who were injured or who suffered loss as a result of their participation in the BNT program have access to compensation under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRCA). For more information, civilian claimants can contact Comcare on 1300 366 979.

Civilian BNT participants are also covered by a SRCA-like scheme administered by the now Department of Jobs and Small Business. This scheme is similar to the SRCA. For more information, contact the Department of Jobs and Small Business on1300 488 064.

British Nuclear Test Participants Non-Liability Health Care Treatment for All Conditions (Gold Card)

Eligible British Nuclear Test participants, including Australian military personnel, Commonwealth employees and civilian contractors, as well as certain other civilians (such as pastoralists and Indigenous Australians), may be provided with a Veteran Gold Card under the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests and British Commonwealth Occupation Force (Treatment) Act 2006. For more information, see Help for test participants and people who served in Japan.