The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has undertaken analysis to provide an overview of the income and income sources of ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members. The analysis compares the cohort of ex-serving ADF members who had at least one day of service on or after 1 January 2001 with the general Australian population where possible (AIHW 2022).

The aim of this project is to improve understanding of the demographic and service-related characteristics associated with ex-serving ADF members’ income and income sources.


A person’s financial wellbeing results from a complex interplay between biological, lifestyle, socioeconomic, societal, and environmental factors, many of which can be modified to some extent by health care, welfare support and other interventions (The Department of Health and Aged Care 2021).

The term ‘veteran’ traditionally described former ADF personnel who were deployed to serve in war or war-like environments. Veterans are now considered people who have any experience in the ADF including permanent, reserve, and former (ex-serving) personnel (Parliament of Australia 2019).

A person’s wellbeing is influenced by many factors, but having an adequate income remains an essential component in measuring individual and household wellbeing. Income per person and household income are also listed as metrics of economy, wellbeing, and prosperity in the Measuring What Matters Framework – Australia’s first wellbeing framework produced by the Department of Treasury (2023). Adequate levels of income can help Australians to better support themselves, their families and their communities more broadly. For most people, income can be an indicator of their ability to, week by week, access food, clothing, education, housing or leisure activities. A person’s income is influenced by their economic circumstances – in particular, employment and type of employment, hours worked, occupation, and government support through Australia’s social security system (AIHW 2021).

Throughout Australia, there are substantial disparities in health outcomes in different populations, and disadvantaged Australians tend to have higher levels of disease risk factors and a lower use of preventive health services (ABS 1999). Further, income affects health and welfare in a more tangible way, such as access to essentials including food, clothing and shelter (Kawachi et al. 2010).

Other financial factors that can impact wellbeing include levels of savings, assets, investments, and levels of liabilities such as debts and loans. Therefore, the income sources examined in this report are one component of the overall financial situations of ex-serving ADF members.

This project was funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) as part of the strategic partnership between DVA and AIHW.

About the research project

This report relies on data integration to bring together the Department of Defence (Defence) personnel data held at AIHW with data held at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) from the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) and the 2019–20 Survey of Income and Housing (SIH). The MADIP data presented in this report are based on the 2013–14 to 2017–18 financial years’ personal income tax and government social security payment data, and the 2016 Census.

This report uses the same linked Defence data in MADIP as Understanding the wellbeing characteristics of ex-serving ADF members (AIHW 2022). The ex-serving ADF population includes those members who had at least one day of service on or after 1 January 2001 and were ex-serving as of 20 September 2020.

Included in this report

This report examines information on measures that provide an overview of the income and income sources of ex-serving ADF members.  The analysis explores household income, personal income and income sources (such as salaries and superannuation), and income support payments paid through Services Australia. The information on financial stress in this report relates to current-serving ADF members as well as ex-serving ADF members.

Information in this report is presented by demographic factors of age, sex and geographic location, and ADF service characteristics including service (Navy, Army, Air Force), rank, length of service, time since separation and reason for separation.

The analysis includes frequency tabulations and statistical modelling. The modelling considers the association between various demographic and service characteristics of ex-service ADF members and a binomial outcome, such as whether ex-serving ADF members received business income. 

Trend analysis was also performed for personal income and income support payments to capture changes over time.

This report analysed Department of Defence personnel data, Census data, Australian Tax Office personal income tax (PIT) data, Services Australia payment data, and data form the Survey of Income and Housing. As the data sources are different on important characteristics (for example, time period, income variables, and options for linkage), it was not possible to obtain a single cohort for all data sources. Therefore, for each sub-income topic (for example, household income, personal income and income sources), a different cohort was examined. Details are provided in the 'Included in this analysis' sections.

Not included in this report

This report does not include data on some areas that may be relevant to income and income sources in the ADF-member population and would benefit from further exploration. For example, data are not included on income support payments from DVA, which is a key component of income support for many ex-serving ADF members. Further discussions with DVA are underway to investigate the possibility of including these DVA payments data in future iterations of this work.

Due to limitations in the Department of Defence personnel records, this study population does not include ADF members separated before 1 January 2001. Future analysis could explore expanding to capture income outcomes of this older ADF members cohort with the Department of Defence.

PIT data in MADIP only records taxable income. As such, analyses on total personal income or loss, and government pensions and allowances in this report do not include some tax-free DVA pensions and benefits (for example, invalidity service pension where the veteran is aged below age-pension age and some income support supplement and veteran payments) (ATO 2022a).