Functions and powers
The Repatriation Commission was established on 1 July 1920 by proclamation of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920. When this Act and several other related Acts were replaced in 1986 by the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA), the Repatriation Commission was retained.
Under section 180 of the VEA, the functions of the Repatriation Commission are to:
- grant pensions and other benefits and provide treatment for veterans, their dependants and other eligible persons
- advise the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel on the operation of the VEA
- administer the VEA, subject to the control of the Minister.
The Repatriation Commission has the power to take necessary actions in connection with the performance of its functions, duties and powers (VEA, section 181).
The responsible minister under the VEA is the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel. The Repatriation Commission provides advice to the Minister, who has the power to approve various actions of the Repatriation Commission.
The Repatriation Commission provides services under the VEA to veterans and members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and their partners, widows, widowers and children.
The Repatriation Commission has three full-time members appointed by the Governor-General: the President, Deputy President and Services Member. The President is also Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and, in that capacity, is responsible to the Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel. Both the Deputy President and the Services Member also assist the Secretary in the management of the department. The Services Member is known as the Repatriation Commissioner. There was an additional Services Member appointed for a short duration from 1 February to 30 June 2019, given the impending Repatriation Commissioner’s appointment expiration.
The President of the Repatriation Commission also serves as Chair of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC), ensuring consistency between the two commissions and the department. The remaining two Repatriation Commission members are also part-time members of the MRCC.
Liz Cosson AM CSC, President
After 31 years of distinguished military service in the Australian Army, Liz Cosson joined the Australian Public Service in 2010 and was appointed as Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) in May 2018. Liz is also the President of the Repatriation Commission and Chair of the MRCC.
In 2010, when Liz first joined the Australian Public Service as First Assistant Secretary, Client and Commemorations Division at DVA, she implemented the Anzac Centenary Board, which was responsible for laying the foundations of the Anzac Centenary National Program.
Between 2012 and 2016 she held the positions of Deputy Secretary at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Deputy Secretary / Chief Operating Officer at the Department of Health, leading the implementation of major cultural and behavioural reform activities.
In 2016 Liz returned to DVA to take on the role of Deputy Secretary. Liz has been instrumental in establishing DVA’s transformation program, applying her wealth of knowledge as a veteran and working with partners across Government, the private sector and the veteran community to collaboratively build the future of DVA, improving the outcomes for veterans and their families.
Liz is a passionate advocate for improving services to support and enable all veterans and their families to transition from military service to civilian life.
Liz was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross in 2001 and appointed a Member in the Military Division of the Order of Australia for her contributions to Army; and delivering profound organisational reform in 2011. In 2014 Liz was awarded the ACT Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership.
Liz has a Master of Arts (Strategic Studies), Bachelor of Social Science (Human Resource Development) and a Diploma in Management.
Craig Orme DSC AM CSC, Deputy President
Craig Orme commenced a five-year term as Deputy President of the Repatriation Commission on 2 February 2015 and is a member of the MRCC. Prior to joining the Repatriation Commission, Craig served in the ADF for 37 years, most recently as the Commander Joint Task Force 633 in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Previously, Craig was a member on the MRCC, a Deputy Commissioner on the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission, and the Defence representative on the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act Review.
Other senior appointments in Defence have included Head of People Capability, Commander of the Australian Defence College, Director General of Personnel—Army, and Commander of the 1st Brigade. He has masters degrees from the University of New South Wales and Deakin University.
Major General Mark Kelly AO DSC, Commissioner
Major General Mark Kelly began his initial five-year appointment to the Repatriation Commission and the MRCC on 1 July 2010. He was reappointed for a further two years on 1 July 2015 and was reappointed for a further two years on 1 July 2017. Major General Kelly retired from the Repatriation Commission and the MRCC on 30 June 2019.
In an Army career spanning more than 35 years, Major General Kelly served in a number of senior command appointments, including as Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment; Commander 3rd Brigade; Commander 1st Division and the Deployable Joint Force Headquarters; Land Commander Australia; and Commander Joint Task Force 633.
Major General Kelly’s operational experience includes service with the Commonwealth Monitoring Force in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia (1979–1980), service as Chief of Staff of the International Force in East Timor (1999–2000), service with US CENTCOM in the Middle East, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Iraq (2003–2004) and service as Commander Joint Task Force 633, commanding all ADF elements in the Middle East Area of Operations, Iraq and Afghanistan (2009–2010).
Don Spinks AM, Services Member
Don Spinks commenced his appointment as a Services Member on the Repatriation Commission on 1 February 2019. Don has almost 40 years’ experience in the Australian Army and was the Australian Army’s most senior soldier in his final appointment. Throughout his career he served in a number of senior roles, including 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Multinational Force and Observers—Sinai, Egypt; 1st Brigade, Royal Australian Armoured Corps; Joint Task Force 633 on Operation Slipper; Command Sergeant Major Forces Command–Army; and Regimental Sergeant Major–Army.
Relationship with DVA
The Repatriation Commission is responsible for the general administration of the VEA, with administrative support from DVA. The Repatriation Commission has no staff of its own; it delegates its powers under section 213(1) of the VEA to DVA staff. The responsibilities of the two bodies are therefore inextricably linked and the Repatriation Commission has a vital interest in DVA activities, and in the assessment of the appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency of departmental programs.
DVA reports to the Repatriation Commission on the administration of major programs and the progress and outcome of all major reviews, including Australian National Audit Office performance audits.
Administration of the VEA
The Repatriation Commission has broad powers to enable it to carry out its functions and duties under the VEA. It also has specific powers to enter into contracts, deal with real or personal property, undertake building works and engage individuals and organisations to perform services.
Delegates, on behalf of the Repatriation Commission, are responsible for deciding and reviewing an individual’s entitlements to pensions, benefits and treatment under the VEA.
Repatriation Commission activity
The Repatriation Commission held ten formal meetings to consider 57 submissions in 2018–19, compared with 12 formal meetings and 55 submissions in 2017–18. As DVA is embracing significant change, the commission considered a range of policy and legislative improvements.
Matters considered by the Repatriation Commission in 2018–19 included:
- high-level policy and procedures relating to the VEA
- amendments to treatment principles
- delegation of commission powers
- the DVA Strategic Research Framework and associated research proposals
- possible amendments to the VEA and advice on new policy proposals
- possible amendments to the VEA that may be particularly sensitive for Government or key stakeholders—in particular, the service and ex-service communities.
The Repatriation Commission’s activities under the VEA are focused on meeting the needs of all clients. Activity under the VEA is reported in Part 1 of the DVA annual report under programs 1.1–1.5, programs 2.1–2.5, and Outcome 3.