There are hundreds of medals issued to military, police, emergency services and civilians. Each Award is governed by strict protocols which protect the integrity of Australia's Honours and Awards System.
Who and how to wear medals
Medals are to be worn by the recipient of the medals on their left chest for commonwealth medals and the right chest for state awards. Although not official, of someone who was awarded medals can wear that person's medals on the right side to show that the medals are not their own. Check out our helpful website for details: Who and How to Wear Medals.
Court mounting is where a medal or a collection of medals are mounted on a stiff board. This holds the medal/s in place as well as suspending them. Full-sized medals may overlap as dictated by protocol. Being court mounted rigidly to the board medals cannot clang against each other which avoids damage. The ribbon is extended behind the medal when court mounted.
Swing mounting is where the medal is suspended by the ribbon from a broach pin or other attachment. These medals are free to 'swing' and do hit each other which can cause damage.
There are normally two different sizes of medals. Full-size medals are normally worn on service dress or to daytime events. Miniature medals can be worn with evening dress, such as mess dress, and for black tie events. There are exceptions to the rule where there may be neck-worn awards as well as other forms of decorations, however these types of awards are rare.
Miniature medals do not overlap unless the number and size exceeds the distance between the lapel and shoulder seams. This needs to be considered when ordering.
Each medal is suspended from a ribbon which is unique to that medal. These ribbon designs are influenced by the nature of the award.
All Australian and British Imperial awards are worn in accordance with an order of precedence from left to right. For example a Victoria Cross would sit on the far left and foreign awards to the right. If the medals are being overlapped then the medal on the far left will be on top of the medals to the right. Foreign awards, including UN and NATO medals, are mounted after Australian medals if the individual is with an Australian agency, such as the ADF, Police etc. Foreign awards are ordered by the date which they were awarded.
State medals are mounted with other state awards and worn on the right chest. These medals are mounted in the opposite way to the commonwealth medals and have the order of the medals reversed. As with the commonwealth medals, they also have an order of precedence.
Ribbon bars are a way of displaying the awards for an individual when not wearing medals. They are common-place for service personnel as well as police and emergency service personnel in their normal day to day work roles. There may be clasps, rosettes and dots on ribbon bars depending the medal. Ribbon bars are four medals wide per row for males serving in Army and Air Force with females wearing ribbon bars three medals wide with a new row starting with the fifth and fourth medals respectively. Navy personnel wear have the choice of wearing either three or four medals per row. Ribbon bars can also have a plastic coating on them, normally used by emergency service personnel.
Medals should be stored in a clean dry area. A medal box or case is a perfect place to store them. As they are very valuable, medals should also be kept secure. Clean them with a non-acidic cleaner or just a damp cloth, a non-abrasive pencil eraser also works well.
Department of Defence - Honours and Awards
Specific information about Australian military Honours and Awards.
Australian Government - It's An Honour
Information regarding Australia's Honours and Awards system.
Australian National Archives Service Records
Searchable historic information on an individual's Service record.