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Distinguished Service Decorations

The Distinguished Service Decorations were instituted for the purpose of recognising service in warlike operations. They are awarded primarily to members of the Australian Defence Force. Distinguished Service Decorations may be awarded posthumously.

There are three levels of individual awards and one group award.


Details on each award can be found in the links below, as well as in the Distinguished Service Decorations Booklet, which includes:

  • history, eligibility and nomination details
  • Letters Patent, Regulations and Determinations
  • images and descriptions of what each award looks like; and
  • guidance on how decorations are worn.
Distinguished Service Cross


The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) is awarded only for distinguished command and leadership in warlike operations.

Distinguished Service Medal (DSM)


The Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) is awarded only for distinguished leadership in warlike operations.

Commendation for distinguished service


The Commendation for Distinguished Service is awarded only for distinguished performance of duties in warlike operations.

Meritorious Unit Citation


The Meritorious Unit Citation recognises sustained outstanding service in warlike operations by units of the Defence Force and by units of the defence forces of other countries.

How awards are made

The Governor-General makes the award of Distinguished Service Decorations and Meritorious Unit Citations on the recommendation of the Minister of State for Defence. The Governor-General may also make immediate awards for Distinguished Service Decorations on the recommendation of the minister and these are announced separately as they occur.


The awards are normally set for announcement on Australia Day (January 26) and The King's Birthday (the second Monday in June) each year.

Upon publication of their award, recipients are entitled to have the appropriate post nominals placed after their name on all occasions when the use of such letters is customary. This is not applicable to the awards of the Commendation for Distinguished Service and the Meritorious Unit Citation which do not confer post nominals.

The awards mentioned above may also be made posthumously and presented to the next-of-kin.


Recipients are invited to attend an investiture at Government House in the State or Territory in which they reside where they are presented with their award by the Governor-General, State Governor or the Administrator of the Northern Territory. 

Investitures take place twice a year, usually in April and September.

Last updated November 2023