In early October 1916 the Commonwealth Government proclaimed that all unmarried able-bodied men between the ages of 21 and 35 were to undertake military training leading to the possibility of service within the Commonwealth.
All men meeting these criteria were to proceed to enrolment centres where they were assessed for suitability. There was, however, a procedure whereby men classified as suitable could appeal and be granted exception from service. The Defence Act allowed exemption from military service on religious grounds, and war service regulations allowed exemption:
- Where it was in the national interest for a man to continue in his work, education or training;
- If military service would cause serious financial hardship;
- For the only son of a family;
- If at least half of the sons in a family enlisted;
- For sole support of aged parents, widowed mother or orphan siblings under 16 years of age or physically incapable of earning their own living.
Local exemption courts were established to hear applications for exemption. Men who sought exemption from military training were to fill out a form in duplicate, deliver it to the military registrar and present their case at the exemption court. More than 87,000 men actively sought exemption from military service through the exemption courts.
An exemption court opened at Orange Courthouse on 19 October 1916 and was operational until November 1916. During this time Orange Police Magistrate Hugh Malone presided over more than 150 local appeals for exception from military service.