Opinion Number. 906

Subject

REPATRIATION WHETHER REPRESENTATIVES OF Y.M.C.A. ACCEPTED FOR SERVICE WITH AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCE ARE ELIGIBLE FOR REPATRIATION BENEFITS: APPOINTMENT AS OFFICERS WITH HONORARY RANK

Key Legislation

AUSTRALIAN SOLDIERS' REPATRIATION ACT 1917, ss. 4(2) (a), 22

Date
Client
The Comptroller, Department of Repatriation

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

Advice is requested by the Secretary of the National Committee of the Young Men's Christian Association of Australia as to whether returned representatives of the Association who were accepted by the Minister of Defence for service with the A.I.F. abroad are eligible for assistance by this Department.

Copies of (a) letter from the Secretary of the National Committee and (b) certificate of acceptance of Y.M.C.A. representative with the A.I.F. are forwarded herewith.

An opinion is desired as to whether the representatives referred to have any claim on this Department.

Section 22 of the Act gives power to make regulations, inter alia, for providing for the granting of assistance and benefits to Australian soldiers upon their discharge from service.

Paragraph (a) of sub-section (2) of section 4 provides that for the purposes of the Act, any person who is or has been, during the present war, a member of the Naval or Military Forces enlisted or appointed for or employed on active service outside Australia or employed on a ship of war, shall be deemed to be an Australian soldier within the meaning of the Act.

Y.M.C.A. representatives, to be eligible for assistance and benefits under the Act, must, I think, be covered by that definition.

The question then is are they or have they been members of the Military Forces enlisted or appointed for or employed on active service outside Australia? In other words, are they or have they been members of the A.I.F.?

The certificate of acceptance of Y.M.C.A. representatives sets forth that-'Mr . . . has been accepted by the Minister for Defence, Commonwealth of Australia, for service with the Australian Imperial Force, as a representative of the Young Men's Christian Association'.

That acceptance is subject to certain conditions, one of which is that while with the A.I.F. the representative must be graded as an officer and be subject to military law.

There is nothing in the form of certificate of acceptance to show that by acceptance for service with the A.I.F. or by being graded as an officer the Y.M.C.A. representative becomes a member of the A.I.F.; but I understand, from information received from the Defence Department, that it was usual to appoint Y.M.C.A. representatives as officers in the A.I.F. with what is termed 'relative honorary rank'. Representatives so appointed would, I think, be deemed to be members of the A.I.F., and therefore 'Australian soldiers' within the meaning of section 4 of the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act 1917-1918.

It appears, however, that at the commencement of the war, Y.M.C.A. representatives were not appointed as officers of the A.I.F., and it is probable that such representatives are not members of the A.I.F. It will, therefore, be necessary in determining whether a Y.M.C.A. representative is or has been a member of the A.I.F. to consider all the circumstances of his acceptance for service with the A.I.F.

Clause (g) of the conditions governing the acceptance of Y.M.C.A. representatives provides that the Government accepts no responsibility or liability in any way, monetarily or otherwise, concerning the Y.M.C.A. representative, but that condition would not, in my opinion, affect the eligibility of a representative who has been duly appointed an officer in the A.I.F. for assistance and benefits under the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act.

I am of opinion that a Y.M.C.A. representative accepted for service with the A.I.F., who has been accordingly appointed an officer in the A.I.F., and has thus become a member of the A.I.F., is eligible for the assistance and benefits granted under the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act 1917-1918.

[Vol. 16, p. 136]