Defence Families of Australia's origins begin with the Hamilton Report in 1986. Following a comprehensive report written by Sue Hamilton from the Office of the Status of Women which identified significant challenges facing Defence Families, the National Consultative Group of Service Spouses (NCGSS) was formed in 1986. The group gained regular Defence funding and office space in 1993 to carry on its work after Defence leaders recognised that no other organisation or system carried out the same necessary functions. In 2002, the group was renamed Defence Families of Australia.
Origins of Defence Families of Australia
Australia’s Defence Force has a strong tradition of standing aloof from overt political activity. Its members are not permitted to comment publicly on political matters as members of the Defence Force. They are not permitted to form Trade Unions or to strike.
The traditional separation of the military from politics and the poor mechanisms for the articulation of their unsatisfied expectations can mean that Government and the Department of Defence are unable to assess the full extent of dissatisfaction accurately until the problem has reached significant proportions.
It was against a rising background of complaints from Defence members and their families made to the Minister for Defence on his visits to military bases, and increasing rates of separation, that, in 1985 the Minister for Defence commissioned Sue Hamilton from the Office of Status of Women to conduct a report into the problems encountered by Defence families. Ms Hamilton spoke to thousands of Service men/women and their families throughout Australia and in April 1986 produced a report that comprehensively detailed the problems faced by Defence families and suggested solutions. One suggestion was that a group be formed from a range of Defence spouses to advice on the implementation of the report’s recommendations.
In 1986, an interim National Consultative Group of Service Spouses (NCGSS) was convened by the Department of Defence to act as a representative advisory group to assist the Department in the implementation of the Hamilton Report. The NCGSS was subsequently given a continuing role as an independent consultative group by the Minister for Defence, Science and Personnel Minister Ros Kelly and Chief of Defence Force General Sir Phillip Bennett, KBE, AO, DSO.
In 1992, the group was renamed the National Consultative Group of Service Families (NCGSF) and requested funding to operate the organisation, a review was requested by the Minster of Defence, Science and Personnel. Previously all expenses were covered by the voluntary Delegates, including hosting National Conference. In August 1992 Mrs D.A. Dunn & Brigadier G.J. Murphy prepared a report stating “there is a continuing amount of issues to concern the NCGSS, and there is at present no other independent organisation or system which performs the same functions. We therefore conclude that there is indeed a need for the NCGSS to continue with full support.”
The CDF General Peter Gration, AC, OBE recommended in 1993 that Defence provide financial support for the NCGSF. Second to that an independent office space was established by the CDF to facilitate autonomous operations based in Canberra enabling NCGSF interactions.
On 21 August, 2002 the new name Defence Families of Australia was launched by the group’s Patron, Mrs Julia Anderson.
Defence Families of Australia celebrated 25 years of representing Defence Families in Government and Defence forums during 2011 by holding a series of events and publishing a book, Voices.