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Homeward bound: Why Australians have Long Service Leave

Homeward bound:

Why Australians have Long Service Leave

Did you know that Long Service Leave is a benefit relatively unique to Australia?

It originated in colonial times, when the entitlement was first introduced in the 1860s, to allow long-serving public servants time to sail back to England (or other distant land) to visit family and friends and return to their post without penalty.

Where any officer desires to visit Europe or some other distant country, if he have continued in the civil service of the colony at least ten years, and have not been reduced for misconduct or deprived of leave of absence under this Act, the Governor in council may grant him leave of absence upon half salary for a period not exceeding twelve months; but for such period of absence such officer shall not be entitled to receive any annual increment [s.37 of Victoria’s Public Service Act 1862].

After federation, the newly formed Commonwealth included this provision in its Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902, s.71, granted with a minimum of 20 years’ service.

Today, after much lobbying during the decades since, this provision has also been extended to include the workforce in other sectors. The conditions of Long Service Leave vary from each state and territory, despite various efforts by the government to work towards a national standard.

Image: Botany Bay [New South Wales, ca 1789 / watercolour by Charles Gore]


Selby, H. (1983). Long service leave. Sydney: Law Book Co.

Ferris et al.. (2015). Long service leave: past, present and future. Australian Journal of Actuarial Practice, 3(3), 5-22. (SLNSW Library card number required)

Historical newspaper articles relating to Long Service Leave (Trove)