The Commonwealth’s power to use the ADF to provide civil aid during disasters and pandemics

Presented by ANU College of Law

During the January bushfires, the Prime Minister observed that using the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to provide aid was 'testing the limits of constitutionally defined roles and responsibilities'. The 'Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements' was established to inquire into these limits.

This seminar will address the non-statutory executive power relied upon by the Commonwealth to provide such aid, including prerogative powers, the capacities of the Commonwealth as a legal person and the nationhood power. It will consider how they interact with the constitutional framework and the web of statutes that regulate the ADF, both in the context of natural disasters and the current pandemic.

Anne Twomey is a Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Sydney. She has previously worked for the High Court of Australia, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Research Service, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee and The Cabinet Office of New South Wales.

Research theme: 

Constitutional Law and Theory

Environmental Law

Law, Governance and Development

Military & Security Law




Constitutional Law

Natural disasters

Policy and Governance

Environmental Law

Legal Structures for Environmental and Climate Risk and Impact Management


Separation of Powers