As of 31 December 2019, almost 373,500 Australians had served at least one day in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) since 1985. Of these, just over 358,000 were still alive of which 59,000 were permanent, 38,700 reserve and nearly 261,000 ex-serving.

This report describes the demographic and service-related characteristics of the ex-serving population. It is part of a larger project to establish a study population that is more representative of the entire veteran population. It establishes a study population of members who served in the ADF between 1985 and 2019 by using data from historical ADF personnel systems. Previous AIHW studies on veterans were restricted to members who served in the ADF from 2001 and were based on the current ADF personnel system. A limitation is the study population does not include members who separated prior to 1 January 1985.

Key findings

  • As of 31 December 2019, more than 358,000 living Australians had served at least one day in the ADF since 1985. This comprised 59,000 permanent, 38,700 reserve and 261,000 ex-serving.
  • Of ex-serving members still alive:
    • more than 4 in 5 (84%) were male and 16% were female
    • the average length of service was 10 years
    • the most common separation reason was voluntary separation (45%).

Permanent and reserve members as of 31 December 2019

  • The median age for permanent members was 31 and for reserve members was 37.
  • The number of permanent members has remained reasonably constant at around 59,000 since 2010.
  • The number of reserve members fluctuated year to year from around 36,400 in 2002 to 44,200 in 2008 where it remained until 2015 before dropping to 36,800 in 2016. In 2019, there were around 38,700 members in the reserve.

Ex-serving members as of 31 December 2019

  • The number of ex-serving members with at least one day of service since 1985 was approximately 261,000 in 2019.
  • The majority were male (84%).
  • The majority were aged 40 years and over (79%).
  • Consistent with the distribution of members across the three Services during active service, the majority (68%) had separated from the Army. Similar proportions had separated from the Navy and Air Force at 16% each.
  • Around 1 in 7 (14%) were commissioned officers at time of separation.
  • The average length of service was 10 years with more than one–quarter (28%) having between 1 and 5 years of service, while 1 in 5 (20%) had served over 20 years.
  • The most common reason for leaving the ADF was voluntary separation (45%).
  • The average time since separation was nearly 19 years.