Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal

The Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal honours members of recognised Australian organisations and members of Australian contingents to international organisations, who are exposed to risk or danger in the course of providing significant emergency humanitarian aid to civilians overseas.

How it is awarded

The Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal is awarded under the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal Regulations. The Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, may make the award to a person who meets the eligibility criteria set out in each event declaration.

Applications for the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal may only be made for members of eligible organisations for declared events and must be endorsed through an accompanying document of verified activity submitted by the deploying organisation.

Eligible organisations may include non-government organisations such as CARE Australia, a group of Australians working with a United Nations operation or other humanitarian organisations. Eligible organisations vary for each declared event.

A guide to eligible groups is available as a downloadable file: Guide to Eligible Groups

The Application form is available as a downloadable file: Application form

Only one medal can be awarded to an individual, however, additional clasps may be awarded for eligible service in a different operational area. There is no post-nominal.


The Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal was introduced following the Review of Australian Honours and Awards, which reported in late 1995.

The Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal was established on 16 April 1999 by Letters Patent. Regulations were made in 2005 to enable recognition of humanitarian service provided in response to natural disasters overseas. In 2011 existing regulations were consolidated, the provisions relating to assessing eligible organisations were strengthened and the benchmark for assessing natural disaster operations clarified.

The Letters Patent, regulations and clasps for declared events are listed on the Governor-General’s website.

Medal design

The central symbol of the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal is an Australian eucalyptus tree. The branches spread from the Australian land at the base of the medal to the world, which is represented by a circle.

A ring of gum nuts surrounds the circle symbolising hope and life after disaster. Like the Australian eucalyptus seeds, which regenerate following bushfires, humanitarian service assists the recovery and continuation of life.

The back of the medal repeats the ring of gum nuts, and details the award and recipient.

The Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal draws its inspiration from Indigenous motifs. It was designed by Balarinji of Sydney.

Medal ribbon

The colours of the ribbon are gold and eucalyptus green. Gold symbolises the Australian sun, optimism and hope. Eucalyptus green continues the regeneration symbolism of the medal design.

Award category

Civilian Service Medals