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Your rights to financial assistance when terrorism strikes

What are your rights in Australia to monetary assistance if you are injured or your close family member is killed in a terrorist attack overseas?

This morning, Australians woke up to terrible news of yet another senseless act of terror in New York. There are at least eight dead and more than a dozen people injured at this stage.  


The surge in terrorist attacks in the last two decades has left many victims of terror often without additional governmental support to assist in the healing and treatment of their injuries.


Thankfully, the Australian Commonwealth government has been assertive in assisting Australian residents and their families to receive monetary assistance to help them through an incredibly harrowing and traumatic episode in their lives when they have been directly affected by an overseas terrorist attack.



In 2013, the Commonwealth instituted the Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment (AVTOP) under the Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) to allow persons directly injured by an overseas terrorist attack or alternatively, for persons who have had a close family member killed in an overseas terrorist attack to qualify for a one-off and lump sum payment (the payment).


The payment is made by the Commonwealth government directly through the Department of Human Services and can be up to $75,000.00 AUD.



In order to qualify for the payment, there are a number of criteria that must be satisfied as follows (not limited to):


Injured persons

  • You must be an Australian resident on the day that the overseas terrorist attack occurred and you were living permanently in Australia (in respect of expat Australians, the Attorney-General will determine their circumstances and make a declaration as to their entitlement to claim under this criterion),
  • Your close family members were not involved in the committing of the overseas terrorist attack,
  • Were in the place and suffered harm as a direct result of the overseas terrorist attack,

This means that you must be in close proximity to the terrorist attack, witnessed the terrorist attack (e.g. seeing the terrorist attack) and suffered physical injuries and harm (including mental injuries) as direct result.

In addition, persons who were at the site of the overseas terrorist attack to render assistance to victims immediately after the attack before injured or dead victims are moved to another location would potentially be able to access the payment provided they suffered harm in the sense of mental injuries (e.g. suffering nervous shock at seeing the immediate aftermath of the overseas terrorist attack),

  • The overseas terrorist attack must be declared by the Prime Minister as being a ‘Declared terrorist attack’, and
  • The claim must be brought within two years of the declaration being made by the Prime Minister.


Close family member killed

  • A close family member under the AVTOP is defined as being a partner, child, parent (including a legal guardian) and a sibling of a person killed in an overseas terrorist attack,
  • The person who was killed in the overseas terrorist attack must have been at the place of the overseas terrorist attack and died as a direct result of the overseas terrorist attack (provided that the overseas terrorist attack is a ‘Declared terrorist attack’ by the Prime Minister), and
  • The claim must be brought within twelve months of the death of the close family member and provided that the close family member dies within two years of suffering injuries directly from the declared terrorist attack.



In respect of persons directly injured by the terrorist attack, they are entitled to the 100% of the payment of the payment without any apportionment or sharing.

However, in respect of close family members, the payment is apportioned amongst all close family members of the person killed depending upon the number of close family members and their relationships with the person killed.



Whilst no amount of money can ever heal a person dealing with the trauma of a terrorist attack, the Commonwealth government has at least taken constructive steps to at least assist Australian residents to cope with the impact and shock of a terrorist attack upon their lives. 


(Please note that this article is not intended as legal advice, and is for educational purposes only. Please contact the writer for additional information).


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Written by: Thomas Janson, Shine Lawyers
Published: 1 November 2017

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