Advocating for Defence families

Health Resources and Advocacy for Defence Families 

The health and wellbeing of ADF members and their families is an important area of advocacy for DFA. 

Our team has long called for Defence families’ health and wellbeing needs to be better addressed, and emerging research as well as recent public commentary have highlighted its growing urgency.

On 15 May 2023, during National Families Week, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel issued a media release stating: 

“People are Defence’s most important capability and we recognise the importance of supporting the families that support those who serve… Having the support of their family is essential for ADF members to undertake their work in service of our nation, while families are often on the front line when a veteran needs some extra support.”

Image: Helena Lopes/ Unsplash

Commissioner Nick Kaldas APM, the Chair of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide stated in his address to the National Press Club on 13 September 2023:

“We know families play a vital role in members’ wellbeing. Research shows ADF personnel perform better and serve longer when their families are happy, well and stable…this Royal Commission [is] an opportunity to drive the long overdue change that is required to ensure our brave men and women in uniform – and their families – have the support they need and deserve.”

Phoenix Australia’s 2023 report on supports for veterans and their families noted: 

‘Family wellbeing is central to Veteran wellbeing, so we must consider the needs of the family, whatever the make-up may be for the individual at a particular point in time.’

Phoenix Australia & Centre of Excellence PTSD Canada: A conceptual Framework to guide the implementation of best and next practice in services and supports for Veterans and their families (p.8)

It will come as no surprise that improving health services is an important area of advocacy for DFA.

The DFA team continue to advocate for improving health services for the current serving Defence community, and in recent times has worked collaboratively with Defence and other stakeholders to:

  • Increase the ADF Family Health Program benefit from $400 to $800 and expand the range of claimable services.
  • Engage regularly with the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide Commissioners and their team to make submissions, to identify family engagement opportunities and share information gathered over the years.

And we won’t stop there! 

Other advocacy goals that DFA is currently working towards, as outlined in our Advocacy Map – Winter 2023 include:

  • Driving the expansion of the eligibility criteria for the ADF Family Health Program to: 
    – Mirror two years’ post-transition date for SERCAT 6/7
    – Include the families of Reservists on continuous full-time service.
  • Supporting the review of the ADF Family Health Program and providing recommendations to improve the program.
  • Obtaining commitment from Defence to review on-base medical services to ensure high quality, timely health services are available for Defence members.
  • Empowering ADF members to seek support for them and their families through: 
    – messaging which reduces hesitancy to seek help.
    – review and update of processes, policy and culture that suggest negative career impacts for speaking up. 
    – communications tailored to families to highlight the scope of support, and encourage asking for help.

You can view these advocacy goals and more of our work in our Advocacy Map.

DFA will continue to advocate to ensure that health services are given appropriate focus and importance by Defence.

If you know of other health initiatives that may benefit Defence families, please reach out to the DFA team:

    Health Programs and Resources for Defence Families

    Our team has collated a list of health and wellbeing support programs and services available to current serving Australian Defence Force members and their families. This list is current and correct as at 11 October 2023.

    This is not an exhaustive list of all programs and services available. Some of these programs may be subject to change, and you are best to contact the service providers directly for more information about eligibility.

    Defence Member and Family Helpline

    The 24/7 Defence Member and Family Support Helpline is the first point of call for Defence families needing information, support or connection with their community. 

    What you might not know is that the helpline is able to provide tailored guidance for your personal situation and it’s not just for times of crisis.

    You can access assistance from qualified human services professionals including social workers and psychologists. 

    If needed, they can refer you on to a specialised service. Your call can be anonymous. 

    Contact the Helpline for:
    – Help during a crisis
    – Support during deployment, posting or relocation
    – Referral to a Local Area Office
    – Connection with community groups and local area resources
    – Referral to a Education Liaison Officer
    – Support for partner employment
    – Assistance with children’s childcare or education
    – Assistance for families with special needs
    – Access to transition coaching
    – Counselling for personal, relationship and family problems.

    To access the helpline:
    ☎️Call: 1800 624 608

    Image: Los Muertos Crew/ Pexels

    ADF Family Health Program

    The ADF Family Health program is open to recognised family members of permanent ADF members and reservists on continuous full time service.  

    The program allows family members to claim a benefit for a variety of health services from allied health and medical specialists. Currently, the benefit is $800 per family member (*Oct 2023). 

    This amount is combined as a family and automatically transferred between family members should one person need more than another. There is also unlimited cover for general practitioner gap fees. 

    To maximise your benefit, it is recommended you claim what you can on your private health insurance first and then claim the remainder through the ADF Family Health program.

    Defence All-Hours Support Line

    The All-hours Support Line (ASL) is a confidential telephone service that provides a triage service for ADF members and their families 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

    The line is staffed by health professionals from an external agency who can help you to access ADF or civilian mental health services including psychology, medical, social work, and chaplain services.

    ASL personnel have been trained on the issues that ADF members and their families face and have a good understanding of the services most appropriate to assist you. 

    ☎️Call: 1800 628 036

    1800 VETERAN

    1800 VETERAN is available between 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. It provides support and information for the wealth of supports offered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).

    ☎️Call: 1800 838 372

    1800 IMSICK 

    1800 IMSICK assists ADF personnel to obtain health care if they become ill or injured after hours or are not in close proximity to an on-base health facility.

    It is a national 24-hour call service, staffed by BUPA nurses.

    ☎️Call: 1800 IMSICK number 1800 467425.

    Image: Anna Shvets/ Pexels

    Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office

    The Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office (SeMPRO) provides immediate and confidential help to those impacted by sexual misconduct, including members and their families.

    The office is staffed by social workers and psychologists who are available 24/7 to assist or refer on to healthcare services.

    SeMPRO services are confidential and are accessible without needing to make a report to Defence, the military police, or civilian police. Callers may choose to remain anonymous.

    Services are available through phone, text and email from any location. 

    ☎️Call: 1800 SeMPRO
    Outside Australia – +61 2 6127 1759
    Text: +61 4 2960 0800

    ADF Chaplains

    ADF Members and their families can call the 24/7 on-call Chaplain to receive independent pastoral care, support, advice or referral to access health and wellbeing services. 

    Chaplains are recognised representatives from various churches and faith groups., but you don’t have to have any religious affiliation to access the service. 

    ☎️Call: 1300 333 362 and ask to speak to the on-call Chaplain in the area.

    Open Arms

    Open Arms provide mental health support for ADF personnel, veterans and their families. 

    Their services include a 24/7 helpline; individual, family and couples counselling; treatment programs and workshops; community and peer advisors with lived-experience; and a range of self-help tools.  

    ☎️Call: Open Arms hotline: 1800 011 046
    ☎️Call: Safe Zone is a 24/7 anonymous counselling service hosted by Open Arms for the veteran community – 1800 142 072

    Image: Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels

    Family and Domestic Violence Support

    Help is available from a variety of sources for those experiencing acts that are violent, threatening or controlling and/or who are feeling scared or unsafe. 

    The Defence Member and Family Helpline can help you develop a plan to ensure the safety of you and your children. They can also advise on Defence policy and schemes such as the Special Accommodation for Emergencies Scheme (SAFE). 1800 624 608

    The Defence Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office (SeMPRO) also provides immediate and confidential help to all members and their families impacted by sexual misconduct. 1800 SeMPRO

    Australians Dangerously Ill Scheme

    This scheme provides financial assistance to enable someone to support an ADF member who has been hospitalised with a serious illness or injury. 

    This can be used for travel, accommodation, meals or other needs that are necessary to allow a support person to assist in the recovery of the member.

    Emergency Support for Families Scheme

    Families can access short-term financial assistance from this scheme when faced with an emergency or crisis situation. 

    This can be used for things like dependent care, travel or housekeeping needs when a member is away from home for ADF duties or unable to provide care due to their own medical needs.

    Image: Lukas/Pexels

    Defence Special Needs Support Group

    Families with special needs can access support, resources and guidance from the Defence Special Needs Support Group Inc (DSNSG). The DSNSG is a national organisation with lived experience of the unique challenges faced by Defence families.

    Kookaburra Kids

    The Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation supports kids impacted by family mental illness. They have a program dedicated to supporting veteran children which is funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. 

    The program includes camps, activities days and education around mental health to allow Defence Kids aged 8-18 to bond with peers and develop coping skills for the unique challenges of Defence life.

    ADF Equip Program

    ADF Equip – Children’s Group Resilience Program is designed to support the social and emotional wellbeing of ADF Children. 

    It teaches age-appropriate strategies to better manage the challenges of Defence family life. These are done through activities to get to know peers, improve wellbeing and understand how to access support. 

    The sessions cover three age groups between 5-18 years old and are broken into two unique topics: parental absence and relocation.

    Submit an expression of interest:

    Image: Roman Kraft/ Unsplash

    Social Wellbeing Support

    Defence provides a number of services and engagement activities across posting locations to assist families with social support. 

    Area Offices help families to build new support networks, access community support, familiarise themselves with their new posting location and find people with similar interests. Sign up to your new local area office each time you post to receive their newsletter and notification of events and other information.

    Community Groups and Centres run programs and events and provide services and support for local Defence families.

    Veterans’ Catalogue (Sponsored by RSL Australia; powered by Servulink)

    The Veterans’ Catalogue is a free, online repository of support services for veterans and their families, including financial support, physical and mental health, employment, education, accommodation and legal support.

    This innovative web application is designed to alleviate the complexities of finding the right services or support available to Defence members, veterans and their families.

    Image: Gustavo Fring/ Unsplash

    National Helplines – Non Defence

    ☎️ 1800 RESPECT – domestic, family or sexual violence counselling – 1800RESPECT

    ☎️ Beyond Blue – mental health support – 1300 224 636

    ☎️ Kids Helpline – support for kids whenever they need – 1800 551 800

    ☎️ Lifeline – crisis support and suicide prevention – 13 11 14

    ☎️ Mens Line Australia – phone and online counselling for men – 1300 789 978

    ☎️ Qlife – anonymous and free LGBTIQ+ peer support and referral – 1800 184 527

    ☎️ Suicide Call Back Service – phone line and online chat with professional counsellors – 1300 659 467

    ☎️ Relationships Australia – counselling, family dispute resolution, mediation, and a range of family and community support and education programs – 1300 364 277

    ☎️ The Family Relationship Advice Line – helps for families affected by relationship or separation issues – 1800 050 321

    *Feature Photo by Gustavo Fring/ Pexels

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