The Afghanistan Inquiry makes seven recommendations in relation to honours and awards. 

On 19 April 2021, the then-Minister for Defence made the decision that the Meritorious Unit Citation (MUC) awarded to the Special Operations Task Group (Task Force 66) would be retained. This decision is not a reinstatement of the MUC as it had not been cancelled.

All other honours and awards recommendations are being considered as part of the Defence response.

Based on specific eligibility criteria, Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel who served in Afghanistan during Operation SLIPPER were awarded for the following honours and awards:

  • Australian Active Service Medal;
  • Afghanistan Medal; and
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal with Clasp 'International Security Assistance Force'.

Individual awards for Gallantry or Distinguished Service were also awarded.

The decision to voluntarily return a medal or award belongs to the individual recipient of the award.

Voluntary handback of a medal or award to Defence is not a mechanism to officially return a medal. 

An individual may return a medal or award to Government House; however, they would still be a recipient and their name would still be in the awards register.
 

A Defence honour or award may only be cancelled by the Governor-General. 

Where appropriate, the Chief of the Defence Force may request that the Minister for Defence make a recommendation to the Governor-General to cancel an honour or award. 

Before requesting that the Minister make a recommendation to the Governor-General, Defence must determine that a member or former member of the Australian Defence Force is no longer eligible for, or should no longer be entitled to be recognised by, the honour or award. 

The Minister will review the recommendation and if he agrees, will refer it to the Governor-General.

Once the Governor-General has received the recommendation and considered the matter, if it is decided to cancel an honour or award it is announced in the Gazette in the Federal Register of Legislation.

Meritorious Unit Citation

The MUC is awarded to a unit for sustained outstanding service in warlike operations. It is not an individual honour or award.

There have been almost 30 MUC awarded since the introduction of the award in 1991. The following units were awarded a MUC on Operation SLIPPER:

  1. Numbers 36 and 37 Squadrons;
  2. Number 5 Flight;
  3. Special Operations Task Group (Task Force 66);
  4. 1st Joint Movement Group;
  5. 1st Mentoring Task Force;
  6. 5th Aviation Regiment;
  7. The Special Air Service Regiment; and
  8. 84WG - Detachment Manas.

The MUC is a collective group decoration awarded to recognise the actions and accomplishments of a unit as a whole. It is not an individual honour or award.

The MUC is awarded to a unit for sustained outstanding service in warlike operations.

  • There have been almost 30 MUCs awarded since the introduction of the award in 1991.
  • The MUC was awarded to Special Operations Task Group Rotations 4 -20 (Task Force 66) for the conduct of counter insurgency operations in support of the International Security Assistance Force, from 30 April 2007 to 31 December 2013.

Learn more about entitlements to wear the MUC insignia.

More than 3,400 individuals from the Navy, Army, Air Force and the Australian Public Service are known to be eligible for the Meritorious Unit Citation for service with Special Operations Task Group (Task Force 66).

The citation insignia has been given to:

  • 707 Officers;
  • 2,687 other ranks; and
  • 24 civilians.

Current and former entitled serving Defence personnel can continue to wear the insignia for the MUC awarded to the Special Operations Task Group (Task Force 66).

Eligibility of individuals to wear the insignia will be reviewed in accordance with the MUC regulation where they are convicted of a serious offence in a court of law or administratively identified by Defence as implicated in serious wrongdoing.

On 19 April 2021, the Minister for Defence announced he had made the decision that the MUC awarded to the Special Operations Task Group (Task Force 66) would be retained. 

This decision is not a reinstatement of the MUC awarded to the Special Operations Task Group (Task Force 66), as it had not been cancelled.

Honours and Awards Regulations

In 2018, the then-Minister for Defence Personnel sought approval to make a number of amendments to Defence honours and awards as a result of recommendations made by the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal in 2014 and 2015 relating to withholding and forfeiture of awards.

A full review of relevant legislative instruments was then conducted – after consultation across government and subsequent extensive drafting efforts, in May 2020 the then-Minister for Defence recommended a range of changes to the Australian Operational Service Medal, the Australian Defence Medal, and unit citations.

The changes strengthened and expanded the eligibility criteria for awards to ensure more ADF personnel and veterans are appropriately recognised for their service and introduced gender neutral language.

The changes gave effect to the Tribunal’s recommendations, strengthened and expanded eligibility for certain awards, and ensured consistency in terminology and definitions.

An example of the regulation changes is the expanded eligibility of the Australian Defence Medal to include recognition for all ADF personnel who were discharged due to medical reasons. Under the previous Regulations a member had to be in receipt of compensation to be eligible for the Australian Defence Medal.

The changes to the honours and awards regulations (the Regulations) came into effect according to the usual gazetting process in July 2020.

These processes began in 2014-2015, well before the Afghanistan Inquiry was commissioned or commenced. The processes were finalised prior to the completion of the Inquiry and the Chief of the Defence Force becoming aware of its recommendations.

These necessary and well-considered changes to the Regulations, relating to certain honours and awards, have been put in place as part of a normal, well-established process over a long period of time and are in no way connected to the Afghanistan Inquiry or its reported outcomes.