How many Australian veterans are there?

The exact number of Australian veterans is unknown.

  • As at June 2021, the ADF comprised more than 59,500 permanent (47,800 males and 11,700 females) and 29,700 reserve personnel[1] across the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Army, and the Royal Australian Air Force. In 2020–21, more than 8,000 people were enlisted in permanent or reserve roles, and more than 5,600 left the ADF (Defence 2021).
  • As at June 2021, there were more than 337,000 DVA beneficiaries[2] in receipt of pensions, allowances, and treatment or pharmaceuticals. This included approximately 240,000 veterans and 97,200 dependants (DVA 2021).
  • DVA estimated there were about 613,000 living Australian veterans who had ever served in the ADF, either full-time or in the reserves, as at 30 June 2021 (DVA 2021).
  • As at 31 December 2019, almost 373,500 Australians had served at least one day in the ADF since 1985. Of these, over 358,000 were still alive of which 59,000 were permanent, 38,700 reserve and nearly 261,000 ex-serving (AIHW 2021). In comparison, previous AIHW reports included all ADF members who had served at least one day since 1 January 2001 – as at 31 December 2019, there were similar numbers of permanent and reserve ADF members, however only 125,000 ex-serving ADF members represent in the post-2001 ADF cohort.

Based on self-reported data from the 2017–18 NHS, it is estimated that a total of 713,600 Australians aged 18 years and over had served in the ADF. Of these, 612,900 (86%) were males and 100,700 (14%) females. Of the males who had ever served in the ADF, 133,600 (21.8%) perceived themselves to be clients of DVA and 482,900 (78.8%) considered themselves to be non-DVA clients. By comparison, 8.5 million males aged 18 years and over had never served in the ADF. These estimates exclude people living in non-private dwellings at the time of the survey—such as hospitals, nursing homes (residential aged care facilities) and single quarters of military establishments—and therefore does not capture segments of the permanent, reserves and ex-serving population, including both DVA and non-DVA clients.

Figures 1 and 2 show age distributions by ADF service status and DVA client status:

  • Males who had served in the ADF were typically older than males who had not served – 49% of males who served in the ADF were aged 65 years and over, compared to 17% of males who had never served.
  • DVA clients were typically older than non-DVA clients.

Figure 1: ADF service status by age, males aged 18 years and over, 2017–18

The bar chart shows that males who had served in the ADF were typically older than males who had not served.

* A statistically significant difference between men who have served in the ADF and men who have not served in the ADF, calculated using the confidence interval of the difference between the two proportions.

Notes

1. Results have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data.

2. Proportions have been calculated using weighted estimates.

3. The thin vertical lines superimposed over the top end of each bar are 95% confidence intervals.

Chart: AIHW.

Source: ABS 2018. Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017–18. ABS cat. no. 4324.0.55.001. Findings based on TableBuilder analysis. Canberra: ABS. See Health of veterans: supplementary data tables – Table S1.

Figure 2: DVA client status by age, males aged 18 years and over, 2017–18

The bar chart shows that DVA clients were typically older than non-DVA clients.

* A statistically significant difference between men who have served in the ADF and were DVA clients, and men who have ever served in the ADF and were not DVA clients, calculated using the confidence interval of the difference between the two proportions.

Notes

1. Results have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data.

2. Proportions have been calculated using weighted estimates.

3. The thin vertical lines superimposed over the top end of each bar are 95% confidence intervals.

Chart: AIHW.

Source: ABS 2018. Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017–18. ABS cat. no. 4324.0.55.001. Findings based on TableBuilder analysis. Canberra: ABS. See Health of veterans: supplementary data tables – Table S1.


[1]Reserves include all members (Service Categories 5, 4 and 3) and Reservists undertaking continuous full-time service (Service Option C). This does not include Service Category 2. For more information see Defence 2021.

[2]Individuals receiving DVA pensions can also be employed on reserve contracts.