A Women's Perspective by Mrs Bronwen Usher

DFWA Forum 22 October 2009

Extracts from submission

When I first became a ‘service wife, of the Naval variety, I accepted that I was buying the whole package, man and service. It was a package based on the assumption of mutual obligation. In return for the service of defending the country and being at the government’s disposal, and all that that implied; the government would honour its obligations to the ongoing consequences of that service. The problem with the contract was that the military personnel and their family’s involvement, was up front. The Government’s commitment, often only manifest after active service, is far less freely given. Military families are the ones dealing with the consequences of service and military families are dealing with the reticence of the Government to honour its contract...

One of the biggest problems today for service families is dealing with their service member being redeployed to a theatre of war, when it is clear to them that the first deployment has already begun to challenge the mental and physical limits of that person. Wives are often the first people to see the cracks. De-briefing personnel from active duty is great and a wonderful start, but de-briefing takes time and follow up, over a prolonged period, should be statutory. A session for the wives on strategies to manage the stress of return would be very welcome and a valuable way to lessen the impacts on family life...

Military families know only too well the unique nature of military service. While glad that their service partners are now paid as valued members of the community, there is a growing frustration and disengagement from the services offered to families. They are unnecessarily complex and convoluted. They are administered by a multiplicity of agencies that cannot seem to work together. Frustration is mounting with programs that seem to promise help, but when accessed, deliver little. Military families want honesty, not smoke and mirrors, or being fobbed off with political spin.

Service families want the unique nature of all military service recognized; they want an acknowledgement of the ongoing nature of its impact on family life. They understand the life and are prepared to do what they must to support their service partners. But they do need to know that when the initial job is done they can rely on a government to honour its part of the social contract it
undertook to those who have defended and continue to defend this country. The Government will always get good value for its dollar from military families. It is time to stop exploiting good will and show a realistic concern and support to those who have earned it.

Despite the changes in values and attitudes as the years have passed; despite the spin and perception that now govern much of our society’s judgement; despite the disguise brought about by affluence and technology, the service family remains unique in nature.

It is as unique as it is vital to the continued defence of this country.

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