Opinion Number. 867

Subject

REPATRIATION
ASSISTANCE TO WIDOWS AND WIDOWED MOTHERS OF DECEASED AUSTRALIAN SOLDIERS: POSITION WHERE SOLDIER DIES AFTER DISCHARGE

Key Legislation

AUSTRALIAN SOLDIERS' REPATRIATION ACT 1917, ss. 8 fd), 22

Date
Client
The Acting Comptroller, Department of Repatriation

The Acting Comptroller, Department of Repatriation, has forwarded, for advice, the following memorandum:

The following question has been raised in regard to assistance to the widows of returned soldiers:

Where a soldier dies after his discharge is his widow eligible for assistance under the Act?

Section 8 of the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act 1917-1917 contains, interalia, the following provisions:

The Commission may make recommendations to the Governor-General for regulations providing for the granting of assistance and benefits-

********

(d) where by reason of special circumstances the Commission considers that

assistance and benefits should be granted, to-
********

  1. the widows of deceased Australian soldiers,
  2. the mothers of deceased or incapacitated Australian soldiers-
  1. who are widows and were, prior to the enlistment of those soldiers, dependent upon them, or
  2. whose husbands are so incapacitated as to be unable to contribute materially to their support, and

(iv) the incapacitated fathers of deceased or incapacitated Australian soldiers who were, prior to the enlistment of those soldiers, dependent upon them.

Section 22 of the Act provides, inter alia, that the Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with the Act, prescribing all matters which by the Act are required or permitted to be prescribed or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for giving effect to the Act, and in particular for providing for the granting of assistance and benefits to the same classes of persons.

No definition of the term 'widow' is given, but the term 'soldier', as used in the Act, is applied both to the soldier on active service and after his discharge.

An opinion is desired as to the precise significance of the term 'widow' within the meaning of the Act in view of the fact that the sections of the Act quoted appear to contemplate assistance to dependants of soldiers who die at any time after their discharge.

The words 'Australian soldier' as used in the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act include both soldiers who are serving with the Forces and those who have been discharged.

In my opinion therefore the word 'widows', used in the expression 'widows of deceased Australian soldiers', includes widows of soldiers who have died either whilst serving or after discharge. The term as used in section 8 (d) (iii) (a) should also, I think, be given the same wide interpretation, and, in my opinion, includes mothers of Australian soldiers who become widows after the discharge of the soldiers, provided that they were dependent on the soldiers prior to the enlistment of the soldiers.

[Vol. 15, p. 472]