Advocating for Defence families

DFA’s Top Five Advocacy Themes

As the official Defence families advisory body to the government, Defence Families of Australia (DFA) have advocacy goals that we work towards. You can view them all in our latest Advocacy Map, which is grouped by themes that reflect the things that affect Defence families most – our Top Five Advocacy Themes.

In August 2022, the DFA team met with the Minister for Defence Personnel and outlined the priority goals that sit within these themes. 

Theme 1: Communication  

From our interactions with Defence families, we know there are gaps in the consistency and quality of information from Defence to members and their families.

We see the opportunity here to support Defence with the creation and implementation of frameworks so families can get the information they need, when they need it, straight from Defence rather than having to rely on the current serving member to pass the information on.

For this theme, our priority goals are:

● Obtain Defence commitment to establish a Defence Families Working Group or Committee to support effective communication strategies and resources for ADF families. This includes creating and consulting on: 
– Induction sessions for families of newly enlisted members; 
– Family engagement content and initiatives for Defence command e.g. family readiness plans, family information sessions. 

● Advise on Defence’s Family Strategy including family engagement plan; 

● Develop an ‘Opt out’ approach for Defence communication with families. 

Image: Olia Danilevich/ Pexels

Theme 2: Education 

Defence families tell us that education is one of the key stressors in the posting cycle and beyond – from finding quality schools and enrolling successfully, to supporting the emotional and educational needs of Defence children.

We know the importance of working with government and education systems to raise awareness on the unique needs of Defence children, so students can experience fewer challenges directly related to the Defence lifestyle and have continued access to quality education.

For this theme, our priority goals are:

● Engage State and Territory Education and Veterans Affairs Departments to recognise ADF children as a priority cohort with exceptional circumstances, and to secure their participation in: 
– Establishing a system of accurately identifying ADF school children (e.g. capturing on enrolment forms) to facilitate appropriate funding allocation; 
– Championing the uptake of ADF Aware for training school staff; 
– Greater flexibility of school enrolment requirements for ADF families (such as permitting  our public schools to accept a Defence Posting Order as proof of address for zoning and enrolment purposes, until a family has secured housing). 

● Enhance the Defence School Mentors program through advocating for:
– Recruitment and selection criteria to include a requirement of lived Defence experience; 
– Increased funding to accommodate higher demand related to the expansion of the program to include children of veterans.  

Image: Andrea Piacquadio/ Pexels

Theme 3: Family Employment

We know from our engagements with Defence families that unemployment and underemployment, compounded by frequent moves, are issues affecting the community. 

Defence families give so much of themselves in supporting their serving member’s military service. This often comes at a cost for their own career advancement through postings, poor access to childcare, and breaks for caring responsibilities.

Data from the 2019 ADF Family Survey suggested that even though Defence partners are more likely to be tertiary qualified than the general public, they were at the same time more likely to be unemployed. There’s also likely to be a high degree of underemployment or underutilisation of expertise.

We see the opportunity to increase awareness of the immense potential in this underutilised but highly qualified cohort of Defence and veteran family members.

For this theme, our priority goals are:

● Highlight the business case for family employment by raising awareness of the transferable talent, skills and career experience of ADF families;

● Support private and public sector organisations (including Defence service providers) to develop and promote ADF family employment programs and/or advise them on how to engage ADF families in meaningful employment opportunities; 

● Collaborate with DMFS to raise awareness and uptake of the ADF Partner Employment Program (PEAP) and secure expansion of PEAP to enable partner access following a member’s transition from full-time service; 

● Support for national recognition of professional registrations, licences and certifications of ADF families;  

● Obtain commitment from Defence to review posting practices and increase awareness and training in Career Management Agency staff to facilitate longer posting terms for career planning.  


Image: Cottonbro Studio/ Pexels

Theme 4: Flexible Housing

Defence families often share with us the need for more flexible housing options to suit their personal and professional circumstances. With the current housing crisis, we are also seeing more families highlight the availability of suitable residences as a key priority.   

We see this as an opportunity to promote greater flexibility in housing choice and ensure secure and appropriate housing options for families, now and into the future.  

For this theme, our priority goals are:

● Seek greater transparency of Defence’s long-term housing policy and strategy amongst key stakeholders for improved decision-making; 

● Obtain commitment for greater stability in Service Residence availability and a simplified and more flexible Rent Assistance process; 

● Consult with DHA to enable families to make informed housing choices, with the following updates to the Homefind website: 
– End of lease date and terms; 
– If the Service Residence permits or prohibits a home-based business; 
– Identification of Service Residences owned by Defence or DHA, which impact families operating businesses from home.  

● Obtain commitment for the following housing policy amendments: 
– Enable families to reject a Service Residence and/or obtain Rent assistance due to proximity to family employment, schooling and required medical services; 
– Remove an offer of employment (partner) as a prerequisite to obtaining housing in the Flexible Housing Trial and Rent Assistance applications; 
– Enable families to reject a Service Residence when less than 12 months remains on the lease; 
– Subsidised Rent Assistance is provided in the event that a DHA lease is ending within 12 months.  

Theme 5: Breakdown of Relationship (including Family and Domestic Violence) and Bereavement

According to statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, approximately one in four of the general Australian population have experienced physical and/or sexual family and domestic violence (FDV) since the age of 15.

In line with recent data from the United States and the United Kingdom, DFA believes the rate of FDV in the current serving ADF community is overall higher and more severe than that of the Australian general public. This is due to the unique requirements of the military lifestyle for families, which can impact financial independence and social support networks.

We see a benefit in working with the Department of Defence to proactively engage in initiatives that offer support and help reduce instances of FDV. This includes looking at existing policies that may exacerbate FDV.

For this theme, our priority goals are:

● Raise awareness of the risk of Defence policy being misused in instances of family and domestic violence;  

● Obtain the following policy amendments to better support those in relationship breakdowns including:
– Permit either the ADF member or partner to authorise a family removal; 
– Extend the 28-day removal deadline to 90 days;
– Member and partner to be eligible for accommodation on the night of pre-pack and uplift of a removal. 

● Obtain commitment to examine the implementation of a trial separation period for families considering ending their relationship; 

● Secure commitment for the following policy amendments for bereavement: 
– Provide the option for grieving families to remain in a Service Residence or other Defence funded rental property for up to 18 months following the death of a member; 
– Bereavement support process to be aligned to entitlement periods. 

In addition to the Top Five themes and priority goals, there are many other issues that impact current serving members and their families. These include, but are not limited to, overseas postings, childcare, health, financial stability and family stability. 

All of the current gaps and issues can be reviewed in full detail in the DFA Advocacy Map. If you have any feedback about your own Defence family experience, please contact the National Delegate for your area on the details listed at

Related Posts:
Education Resources and Advocacy for Defence Families
Advocacy and Resources for Defence Family Employment

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