When my husband first indicated to me that he was considering joining the army, I clearly remember the first thought that popped into my head, ‘How often are we going to be moving and where?’.
At that point in time my knowledge of the Australian Army and military life was limited to taking part in ANZAC Day services at school and driving past a RAAF base on the Great Western Highway in NSW. Our first relocation loomed as my husband prepared to graduate from the Royal Military College, Duntroon. When it came time for our first posting, all we knew were possible locations and that he would need to decide with the other Staff Cadets who were posted to his corps who would go where – perhaps their first real tasks as officers at learning to negotiate. We had discussed together what we wanted and came to the mutual decision – get the worst posting over first – at the time, for me, that meant Townsville.
The transition to Townsville was a little bit slow for me, as due to COVID-19, I was stuck in Sydney with my newborn daughter and was not able to move up until the end of June 2020. The anxiety I felt about leaving Sydney was overwhelming, as it meant leaving behind my entire support network.
As a born and bred NSW citizen I also had it in my head that the move was simply never going to work.
But after one month, I have to say, Townsville had begun to work its magic on me. The weather, the birds and The Strand reminded me of a Hawaiian paradise located in Australia. But for me, the winning factor is the pride Townsville has in its place as a Garrison city.
On my last trip to the USA in 2018, I was overwhelmed by the strong sense of pride in the military and its veterans. This is something I have also noticed here in Townsville and something that I could never imagine experiencing in Sydney. Furthermore, while there is still more that can and must be done, the established resources are something that needs to be praised – from Geckos Community Centre at Lavarack Barracks to the new Oasis Townsville Hub, there is recognition in the community here of the importance of providing resources and assistance for the Defence community.
Perhaps how we as partners can better adapt is to try and look at all the moving that comes with being a Defence partner as an opportunity; an opportunity to live in places we would usually never consider, an opportunity to meet people we never would have otherwise met, and an opportunity to figure out where one does not want to live when a partner decides to leave the ADF.
While moving and starting all over again is not easy, and with it comes many challenges and obstacles, I am taking it upon myself to think of my future self and that I will be that exciting person in 25 years at the dinner party who will be able to say, ‘Oh yes, I’ve lived there’, and ‘Yes I’ve also lived there! Have you?’.
Larissa is the National Delegate for Northern Queensland.