Advocating for Defence families

Media release: Reform to elevate Defence family advocacy efforts

The national advisory body for families of current serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members is undergoing a process of transformation to elevate its advocacy work and improve governance.

Defence Families of Australia (DFA) began its organisational transformation process in 2021 with a comprehensive review, highlighting the growing focus on families as pivotal to Defence capability.

DFA also saw the appointment of organisational lead Sandi Laaksonen-Sherrin as the first Defence Family Advocate of Australia.

Building on recent reviews, DFA will soon release its Strategic Plan for 2022-2024 outlining the organisation’s future direction, planned new governance framework and operating model.

“Strong, happy, healthy families lay the foundation for strong Defence capability,” Mrs Laaksonen-Sherrin said.

“We are excited to realise the full potential of DFA in driving positive change for the Defence community. We will be able to do more, more efficiently, with certainty and clarity over our roles and responsibilities, and the funding in place to support this.”

In April, DFA will also release its second quarterly Advocacy Map, which outlines current advocacy work to provide transparency and invite families and other stakeholders to further inform and support ongoing advocacy efforts.

“Defence families have varied needs as they navigate this unique life, supporting their loved one in uniform,” Mrs Laaksonen-Sherrin said. 

“We are here to make sure families’ voices are heard and considered from the highest levels of government to the operational level across Defence to effect sustainable, long-term policy changes.

“In our 35-year history, we have achieved an incredible amount. Every ADF member and their family has in some way been impacted by DFA advocacy in that time, whether through policy change or individual support. 

“We are families advocating for families.”

DFA recently contributed to the reinstatement of Relief Out of Country Leave (ROCL) or Relief Out of Country Fare Assistance (ROCTFA) for members on overseas deployments.

During the pandemic, DFA also successfully lobbied several state governments to remove restrictions which prevented ADF families from accompanying their serving member on posting relocation to some regions, provided all pre-departure requirements (quarantine, COVID testing and vaccinations) were met. 

This saved more than 1,000 families from living separately from their ADF member (MWDU). 

“We work closely with stakeholders like Defence Member and Family Support, and Defence Housing Australia to investigate and resolve a broad range of issues affecting families,” Mrs Laaksonen-Sherrin said.

“In the past 12 months DFA has directly supported more than 450 individual Defence families with highly complex issues. This is in addition to thousands more supported through general advice. This is part of the work rarely seen, but has a huge impact.”


To arrange a media interview with Sandi Laaksonen-Sherrin, please contact

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