Recipients of awards are granted insignia as a visual expression of the honour conferred on them.
For Australian awards, the presentation box generally contains a range of pieces:
- the full-size medal
- a miniature with ribbon
- for some awards, a ribbon bar
- for some awards, a lapel badge or brooch
For certain awards, women receive a full-size and miniature bow set and men are given a neck badge.
Recipients of Imperial awards receive the full-size insignia and can choose to purchase miniatures and ribbon bars.
Most Australian awards are pinned above the left breast.
If the main insignia is in the form of a neck badge it is worn around the neck accordingly.
When a person holds more than one award, the main insignia are mounted on a medal bar in the order set out in the Australian Order of Wearing.
Awards made to next-of-kin
A custom has evolved for people to wear the awards of deceased family members when marching in their place at commemorative events such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. The Returned and Services League (RSL) encourages people to wear their forebears medals on the right breast, which indicates the awards are not their own. Further guidance is available at the RSL website.
Ex-service organisations sometimes commission their own unofficial medals to mark participation in particular military campaigns, periods of service or types of service that have not been recognised through the Australian honours system. Awards made by foreign governments which have not been approved by the Governor-General for acceptance and wear are also "unofficial". There is no impediment to wearing such medals in appropriate private settings, such as a meeting of the relevant ex-service association, or a reception hosted by the relevant foreign government. Ideally, unofficial medals should not be worn at public ceremonial and commemorative events, but if they are worn as the occasion demands, the convention is that they are worn on the right breast.
The full-size insignia is generally worn at day functions where decorations have been prescribed by the event ,for example Anzac Day ceremonies. On such occasions male recipients of more than one medal would wear their decorations, full size, suspended from a medal bar.
Female recipients with more than one award may prefer to mount the miniatures on a bar and to wear on such occasions only one full-sized piece of insignia on its bow immediately below their miniatures. The full-size piece would normally be that of the highest award.
At events such as evening receptions and dinners where decorations have been prescribed, the miniature insignia is generally worn. The main exception to this is neck badges, which are worn in full-size.
A lapel badge or brooch may be worn on civilian clothes at any time. Only one badge or brooch should be worn at a given time and not when other insignia pieces are worn.
There is an established order of precedence for the wearing of Australian decorations.
You can download a copy of the Order Of Wearing Australian Honours and Awards document.
Many awards carry an entitlement for recipients to use indicative letters after their name - for example, ‘OAM’ for the Medal of the Order of Australia.
If a recipient is entitled to post-nominals for more than one award, the sequence of letters is indicated by the Order of Wearing for Australian honours and awards.
Post-nominals may be used from the date on which the award is gazetted.