Veteran numbers – backgrounder

DVA currently provides services and support to about 165,000 veterans and 117,000 widows, partners and dependants. The total estimated living veteran population in Australia – across all conflicts, peacetime operations and including Reservists – is 641,000.

Prior to 2016, only veterans who submitted a claim to DVA were known to DVA.

This means there are potentially some 475,000 veterans who have not, to date, engaged with the department – either because they don’t feel they need to or because they are not aware of the full range of services and support DVA provides.

DVA can only report on those veterans who are known to it. To ensure that DVA provides the support needed to keep our veterans well, we need to know them.

The Government has been working to address this issue. DVA has been working with the Department of Defence to engage with veterans from the time they enlist to the time they discharge from the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The Early Engagement Model is one example. Importantly, since 2016, members who join the ADF and those who leave it are automatically made known to DVA, facilitating faster access to services and faster access to support.

Early engagement allows current and former ADF members to know about DVA during their career to ensure they are fully aware of DVA’s services and support. It also promotes early intervention and prevention of any mental or physical health conditions.

Thanks to information-sharing with Defence, more than 15,000 new, re-joining and separated personnel have been registered with DVA.

As this number continues to grow, DVA builds a more comprehensive understanding of veterans’ needs, and can use this information to improve services, better design health and other support programs, and to intervene early to prevent health and wellbeing problems.

Census inclusion

To gain a better understanding of how many veterans there are in Australia, the Australian Bureau of Statistics is considering the inclusion of a veteran identifier question in the 2021 Census.

This is an important initiative that will provide invaluable further information about Australia’s veteran community.

The inclusion of this question will help in providing a definitive answer to how many veterans there are in Australia, and where they live.

The Census data has the potential to help DVA and ex-service organisations better target and improve the services and support provided to veterans and their families – particularly the large proportion of veterans who are currently unknown to DVA.


Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit