Advocating for Defence families

Cairns Defence Community Support Group

We recently talked to ADF partner, Hannah who works in Cairns.

Tell us about the group you work/volunteer for and your role.

My name is Hannah and I’m the Cairns Defence Community Support Group (CDCSG) Coordinator.  Myself and two other navy wives, Joanna & Lucy, started the CDSCG from scratch just one year ago.

How did you start there?

I posted to Cairns as a Navy spouse in Jan 2018 after a brief posting to Darwin.  I arrived with a toddler and pregnant not knowing anyone.  I took myself along to a local playgroup but didn’t meet any other defence spouses, I then went along to a DCO monthly coffee morning but once settled in this was only on a Friday and I had swimming lessons for the kids.  I was very lucky to meet a fellow navy wife as she was a sleep consultant & a friend I met posted in from Darwin – I started to build my defence network.  The one thing we had in common was we recognised how hard posting into a new location with limited support was and after many conversations CDCSG was created.

Our primary goal is to build and support a stronger community, stronger families and stronger friendships.  

What does your group mean to you?

This group means a lot to me – its amazing being able to provide something and give back to the community.  Defence life is challenging enough but trying to do it alone is even harder.  The impact we have made with this group in just over just 12 months is outstanding and the positive influence it’s had on so many defence spouses is so rewarding.  

My defence spouse life started in Sydney where I was already established and I didn’t need any support – however our first posting as a family was now with a child and to another state, so not only are all my family in the UK, the support network I had made in Sydney was now a 4hr flight away.  Darwin had an amazing defence support network and living on the base certainly helped as well.  

We wanted to give back to the defence community and bring them together in Cairns, which seemed to be lacking.  Not every spouse is a stay at home mum with pre-school kids that want to go to playgroup – there are a wide range of family dynamics and we wanted to create something that met the needs of as many people as possible.  The primary goal of our group is to support the spouse – Happy spouse Happy house!

Defence life can be a lonely isolating place and the aim of this group is to bring together the people that just get it and create some life long friendships.  I know I certainly have.

Is there an event/activity that you are particularly proud of because of how it connected our Defence family community?

To be honest every single activity we have done – even if we connect just two people or make a positive impact on just one person – we’re doing our job.  We try to offer events that cater for all dynamics – empty nesters, singles, families, MWDU families, workers & non workers.  

2020 has thrown even bigger curveballs our way with Covid 19 & lockdown – we had to re think everything we had just established and got off the ground and think how we could support our community remotely. Bring on online coffee catch ups, online book club and weekly Saturday Trivia, all of which had a positive response.  

However for myself I think one of the most rewarding events was starting up the Defence race around Australia – an event that I selfishly created to get myself moving – ended up reaching out to over 400 defence families and 19 community groups around Australia.  Not only has this connected families from all over Australia its also connected the coordinators which will enable us all to work smarter in the future.

Plus a major highlight was winning a recognition award at the RSL International Womens Day

awards – this was in recognition of all the work we had done for the defence families voted for by the families.

Is there something you would like to say to others that are thinking of volunteering or attending something at their local community centre?

DO IT!! Give it a try – so often we hear, I’ve had a bad experience, defence groups are XYZ, their events are just for families with young kids.  Our group and so many others around Australia are here to support you on your defence journey.  

These groups are for you the community so if there is something you would like to do or see more of let the coordinator know. In Cairns we currently deliver adult only events and family friendly events (but this doesn’t mean if you don’t have kids you can’t come along) and now online events – trivia, book club and monthly wine catch up.  Day-time, night-time, week day, weekend, out and about and online in the comfort of your own home we are trying to cater for everyone but always welcome to more ideas and feedback.  Look at us, as three navy wives last year we weren’t happy with what was being offered and fast forward a year and now CDCSG exists.

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