The small print on Veterans’ Affairs

Administrative history throws up interesting stories. Here’s one.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has been involved in commemorations since 1990, implementing such notable enterprises as Australia Remembers in 1995, Saluting their Service after that, and now the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program. The DVA commemorative program, like Topsy, ‘just growed’. Its growth was not accompanied, however, by official recognition in the Administrative Arrangements Order (AAO), the order signed by the Governor-General-in-Council which sets out ‘the matters dealt with by a Department of State’. AAO after AAO, under Hawke, Keating and Howard, appeared without recognising DVA’s growing commemorative task. It was not until 14 September 2010, that ‘Her Excellency Quentin Alice Louise Bryce, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council’ signed an AAO that included the word ‘Commemorations’ under the matters dealt with by DVA.

Perhaps this change was to mark the 20th anniversary of the commencement of DVA’s work in this field; or perhaps someone had noticed the lack for the first time. Machinery of government experts will tell you (correctly) that AAOs do not always fully reflect what departments are up to, that the matters column is only indicative, that other material like program statements has to be read as well, that there is a need for brevity and that, in the case of commemorations, other departments such as Defence do a bit of this sort of thing as well.

All that having been said, twenty years does seem rather a long time to take to fix up this piece of DVA’s paperwork and one wonders why it was done when it was done, noting that the tidy-up happened in September 2010 and the Reynolds-Lake book, What’s Wrong with Anzac? came out in about April 2010 (the review here is dated 7 April) and was critical of DVA’s activities in the commemorative and education areas.

There is still the question of whether the word ‘Commemorations’ adequately covers DVA’s education program.

23 October 2013

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