By Claire Harris

The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) 2022 Conference imagines “a future where putting families at the centre drives the work of researchers, policy makers, and service providers.”

Defence families are one of the groups discussed at this conference. This is welcome news. Family wellbeing is integral to the Defence workforce operating effectively because, put simply, happy fulfilled individuals and families are stronger, effective and productive individuals and families. Wellbeing directly affects the ADF’s capability and retention.

The families and partners of Defence members (and veterans) have a unique lifestyle. There are both benefits and challenges to this. We need greater awareness of the realities of being a Defence family to take greater action to improve wellbeing and the quality of life for these groups.

As a Defence partner for 12 years, I’ve seen a lot of services and programs, volunteered to support them and also developed my own initiatives to address some of the opportunities I saw.

I have been particularly interested in exploring wellbeing services, stakeholder engagement practices and how organisations can support innovation in the Defence family / Military community space.

Defence families and partners in focus

Here are some brief summaries of the ePosters I led or contributed to.

Stakeholder engagement and innovation: Defence families

Dozens of government agencies and organisations across Australia provide support to Defence families and partners. When it comes to engaging with the military community (and the partners / families of ADF members in particular), we wanted to explore:

  • How often and how effectively are these organisations engaging?
  • Are they working with stakeholders to determine their strategic goals and to design and review their programs?
  • Who is guiding innovation?
  • What tools and methods are they using to engage?

The industry first, independent survey “How organisations are engaging with partners and families of ADF members and the wider military community”, has provided an exciting opportunity for scoping research to understand the ways that organisations are engaging with stakeholders in the sector and what the challenges and opportunities are.

We hope the results will inform useful discussion and inform work for years to come.

Eposter powerpoint slides and abstract

Author: Claire Harris, Innovate Communicate. Contributors: Dr Amy Johnson, Central Queensland University; Beck Rayner, Military Life; Amanda McCue, Career Swag.

A focus on wellbeing

The military way of life can present particular challenges to families with Defence families/partners report feelings of being invisible, uncatered for, misunderstood and unappreciated. We ask: Is the focus on building self-reliance and resilience appropriate? How can we celebrate the initiatives that are working? How can we also address the systemic issues that surround families?

Eposter powerpoint slides and abstract

Authors: Claire Harris, Innovate Communicate; Beck Rayner, Military Life; Dr Amy Johnson, Central Queensland University; Amanda McCue, Career Swag.

Juggling ‘all the things’ and being a Defence family

The links between employment and wellbeing, along with growing demands and desires for both partners to engage in paid work for financial and fulfilment reasons, and the economic benefits of supporting women in work, increases the pressure on Defence organisations to have workplace and family support arrangements in place that support dual working families.

This poster highlights key attributes of the ‘challenges’ of juggling ‘all the things’ and provides a case study (Cowork Coplay) plus recommendations.

Eposter powerpoint slides and abstract

Authors: Dr. Amy Johnson, Central Queensland University; Amanda McCue, Career Swag; Claire Harris, Innovate Communicate; Beck Rayner, Military Life.

Also check out…

This page will be added to over time. More results from the industry analysis and  stakeholder survey will be published soon.

“Families are evolving all the time: making choices about how they live and organise their lives within the social and economic conditions affecting them. But how well do our governments, the economy and service systems put families at the centre of their decision making? And do they listen to the aspirations of families and make space for their perspectives in designing solutions intended to address their needs? ”

– AIFS Conference 2022

Want some more inspiration?

A number of researchers and practitioners employed across government, university and private enterprise participated in the military family focused sessions. A quick snapshot of some of the sessions is provided here and I urge you to read more about the sessions in the AIFS Conference program:

Check out these other great topics covered at the AIFS conference:

  • ACTIVATING A WELLBEING ECOLOGY, Penny Hagen, Kaitohu (Director) Tangata Tiriti, Auckland Co-Design Lab; Angie Tangaere, Kaitohu (Director) Tangata Whenua, Auckland Co-Design Lab (Plenary, Wed 15 June)
  • Work–life balance for fathers (Session 3, Wed 15 June)
  • Enhancing the voice of older Australians in complex family dynamics (Session 17, Thurs 16 June)
  • Work, family and gender dynamics (Session 27, Thurs 16 June)
  • Using evidence and implementation science to support family-centred innovation and reform (Session 37, Thurs 16 June)
  • PANEL: PUTTING FAMILIES AT THE CENTRE: WHAT WILL IT ACTUALLY TAKE? Panelists: Angie Tangaere, Kaitouh (Director) Tangata Whenua, Auckland Co-design Lab; Liz Hefren-Webb, Department of Social Services; Natalie Lewis, Queensland Family and Child Commission; Sharman Stone, Australian Institute of Family Studies; Gerry Redmond, Flinders University; Karla Grant (facilitator), SBS (Plenary, Fri 17 June).