Advocating for Defence families

Choosing schools in your new location


Denisa, our National Delegate in the Northern Territory, has been researching schools for her own children. She’s written a blog post based on her own experience and discussions with other Defence families.

Denisa, second from right at a welcome event in Darwin earlier in the year.

Many families are receiving their posting orders and are starting to think about their next move. There are number of decisions that will have to be made.

One of these decisions is choosing schools for your children. I often hear from families that one of the main deciding factors when choosing a house is how this will impact children’s access to education. Many families choose their house solely on which school the house is zoned for. This can be difficult when housing is scarce.

Choosing the right school for our kids is a personal decision and not always an easy one. It can be a stressful time, especially if we are doing our research from interstate and don’t know the area that we are moving into.

On social media, I have seen lots of parents asking for advice and recommendations on specific schools and areas. While sharing personal experiences can be helpful, I find that everyone’s experience may vary as we may be looking for different things and have different expectations. What suits one child and family might not suit another.

Speaking with other families and also reflecting on my own experience, I have found that there are some common things that parents are thinking about when choosing a school. The distance from home, does it offer before and after school care, the school’s academic performance, the school’s culture and values etc.

This article has a comprehensive list of questions you could be asking yourself as well as of any potential schools you are considering for your children.

When looking for a reliable source of information to answer your questions another good place to start your research is the DCO website. For children with special needs, the Defence Special Needs Support Group is also a good source of support and information.

The Department of Education in each state and territory has information available on their website relating to zoning for public schools. Just search for “school zones” and add your state or territory. Additionally look on the actual school’s website. Read its newsletter. You can tell a lot about a school by reading about its everyday activities.

Changing school uniforms can also be a costly exercise for Defence families. Keep a look out for clothing pools at the school and local second hand uniform Facebook groups which can help bring the costs down.

The Defence Community Organisation offers resources, information and services to assist Defence families in making decisions on schooling.

Education Liaison Officers

The EDLO (Education Liaison Officers) is someone who amongst other things has great local knowledge and can provide advice on specific schools in each region. I have recently been doing my own research and choosing a school for my firstborn child. After speaking with the EDLO here in Darwin I felt a lot more confident in my own choice.

Defence School Mentors (DSM)
(Previously Defence School Transition Aide (DSTA) and Defence Transition Mentor (DTM) Program)

In areas with large numbers of Defence families, as part to of the DSM many schools employ Defence School Mentors, who are in school support staff who assist children from Defence families with transition between schools and education systems. There is a full list of schools participating in this program on the DCO website.  If your school has DSM take the time to introduce yourself to them. Let them know of any changes in your family situations such as deployments.


Once in location, within the 18 months of starting at a new school both primary and secondary students may be entitled to up to 14, 26 or 52 weeks weeks of tutoring in any subject that has been recommended by the school principal or the child’s teacher.

Education Assistance

Here is a list of some other Education Assistance available from DCO when posting to a new location:

• Secondary tuition and boarding school
• Tertiary student accommodation
• Special needs support
• Reimbursement of a lost scholarship
• Student reunion travel

For more information about DCO’s services and resources available to families when posting to locations in Australia, visit the Defence Community Organisation or contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608 or email

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