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Looking for a house in your new location?

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Received your posting order and yet to lock in a house?

When you or your partner have received your posting order, you can activate preview access through DHA online services to view homes in the new location.

When you submit a notice to vacate with DHA, or Pre-AFR (Application for Removal) with Toll, your current service residence will appear on Online Services (via the DHA website) so others can view it.

Some families like to be organised early, lodge their paperwork and are then disappointed when they log into Online Services only to discover there are no homes available in the new location.

If everyone is late submitting their AFRs, there are less homes which will appear vacant online, so it may take some time for vacant properties in the new location to appear in searches.  The earlier you lodge your AFR and inventory the sooner your removal dates will be locked in and you can prepare for your relocation.

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Service residences will be visible in a date bracket depending upon your posting date and removal.  You can only lock in a house within 4-6 weeks of the SR’s ready date (4 weeks prior to 2 weeks after).

People often shift dates to see what other homes are available and try to reserve houses months in advance.  If you shift your dates and reserve a house too far in advance, it is likely DHA will call you and advise that you are unable to reserve that far in advance.

Those houses will be needed for families posting into that location within the ready date.  The website is a live site so it’s worthwhile checking on a regular basis to see if any new homes have become available in your timeframe.  You can also ask for notifications to be sent when homes become available.

You may have heard about people locking in a home, only to lose it. 

This may occur if the member currently in the home in the gaining location has their posting dates changed and are unable to vacate at that time, or sometimes a member or their family elect to go MWDU.  Unfortunately these circumstances are outside the control of DHA and they will do their best to assist you in finding another home.

Sometimes there are simply no properties available in your posting location in your rent band, and it is necessary to apply for Rent Allowance (RA) and secure a home in the private rental market.  RA must be approved by DHA before securing a rental property.  All information regarding RA can be found on the DHA website.

If you have a family member with special needs, you need to ensure they are recognised by Defence, in order to receive any special considerations by DHA with regards to your housing solution.  Special needs recognition is managed through DCO (Defence Community Organisation), and the Defence Special Needs Support Group (DSNSG) can also assist you with your application.

More information can be found on these websites:

www.dha.gov.au/housing

www.defence.gov.au/DCO/family/kids/special-needs.asp

http://www.defence.gov.au/DCO/Military-life/Moving-relocation/before-during.asp

https://tws.defenceuniform.movemaestro.com/FormGuides/reference/DefenceRelocationGuide.pdf

 

DCO Community Coordinator Training

Our South Australian National Delegate Victoria has written a blog post about her experience at the recent Community Centre training she attended in Canberra.

We were invited to attend the Defence Community Organisation (DCO), Coordinator training during July. This training saw 37 Community Centre Coordinators, DCO Family Liaison Officers and DFA Delegates come together in Canberra for a two-day training event.

Every corner of Australia was represented which lead to vital discussions to take place in how DCO can help the Community Centres thrive nationwide. This training is following on from the Governance training provided via ‘Our Community’ which was a free training course to all volunteer committee members and coordinators.

Having been in the Defence community sector myself for over 12 years and in 3 different states, it is fantastic to see DCO take this opportunity to support the growth of each Community committee. This forum was the first, since the Community Support Coordinator Pilot Program (CSCP) was launched in June 2016.

It highlighted the importance for networking and collaboration between not just the centres in the same location however centres all over Australia. With the high mobility lifestyle that Defence demands, families are finding themselves transferring to interstate locations more frequently. To help support this the Coordinators, with guidance from the event presenters, were able to identify lack of information in areas of each centre and brainstorm ideas on how this can improve.

Over the two days of training, each Coordinator was given the chance to present to the group on what is working within their centre and communities, also what they thought needed improving. This lead to a wealth of information and ideas being shared in an honest and open forum to help engage and encourage the Coordinators to build a network amongst themselves to help foster a smoother flow for families when posting in between states.

Community Centres/Coordinators

For those unaware of their closest Defence community centre/committee, or if you are simply wanting to do some prior research before arriving in your gaining location, the best place to start would be the on the DCO website.

Most of the centres around Australia are in receipt of the Family Support Funding Program (FSPS) which is a government grant awarded from DCO. This grant allows a governing committee the opportunity to create a Defence friendly environment within the location. This is done in various activities for all demographics such as playgroups, nights out, gaming clubs, fitness classes, art and craft sessions, book clubs etc.

Check out the above link to the DCO website to see the full list of activities in your area.

Each community centre/area plays a vital roll for families within a location. Being an active member of your community can help you access up to date information on services provided in and around Defence. These community groups are an integral feature and highly valued asset to Defence life.

Within our DFA role we speak to Command on a regular basis about the benefits of Community Centres what these centres can do to improve the settling in of their members and their families.

How many of us have moved to an area and known no one?

With each move we do as a spouse, mother/father, wife/husband, for many of us it means starting from scratch. Your community centre can offer you a built-in network full of information. From finding a new hairdresser to which school you want to send your children to. All these conversations would be happening on a weekly basis in these areas, all you need to do is ask a question and to find the courage inside to meet new people and know that you are not alone in this life.

It was apparent through the training, and it would definitely be a highlighted outcome from our time in Canberra that each and every member that was there, was there to make a difference. Whether you are Army, Navy or Air Force – we are all one military, with the passion to see the same results for our families.

For more community information on posting locations check our the Defence Community Hub

 

Speech on Military Spouse Employment

At our Annual National Conference dinner, we invited Amanda McCue to speak about her research with the Churchill Fellowship Trust on Military Spouse Employment. Amanda travelled to the UK, US and Canada to research what our allies were doing in this space.

ADF Partner Employment has been our main advocacy focus this year and we are grateful for Amanda’s work in this important area.

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Amanda is pictured second from left, with Chaplain Mark Willis, General Angus Campbell and Brigadier Natasha Fox.

Here is the speech Amanda gave at our Annual Conference dinner last week which was attended by the Hon Darren Chester MP, CDF, Service Chiefs and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Liz Cosson along with other members of the Defence community and stakeholders.

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Thank you Maree and good evening everyone.

This Churchill Fellowship was an incredible opportunity to engage with and learn from those involved in spouse employment policy, advocacy and program delivery in the UK, USA and Canada.

I was thrilled to be awarded the Fellowship, not just because of the opportunities it presented, but because to be successful in obtaining a Churchill Fellowship you must demonstrate a benefit to Australia. I’m extremely grateful to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for recognising the importance of military spouse employment.

Partner employment is a complex issue involving many factors. There are many reasons for addressing it and many widespread benefits from doing so – these include improved individual and family health and wellbeing, facilitating a successful transition from the ADF, increased Australian labour force participation, and progress toward gender equality goals.

Tonight I’d like to focus on one aspect that I think is of interest to everyone in this room – the opportunity to create a healthy, thriving ADF community and to enhance Defence capability via the recruitment and retention of the people it needs.

The 2016 White Paper states that the quality of Defence’s people is the foundation of its
capability, effectiveness and reputation. Defence doesn’t just need any people– it needs the right people.

The White Paper states:
“Attracting and retaining the future Defence workforce will be a major challenge. Being
an employer of choice for Australians in a more competitive labour market will require
fundamental changes to how Defence plans, manages, and supports its people. A
concerted program of recruitment, training, and targeted retention will be required to
support this growth” (p146)

Defence have outlined a number of target areas in terms of the people and skills it is seeking. But in order to attract the right talent it is important to understand the context that this search is occurring in – to understand what a good job offer looks like to job seekers and what informs their decision to choose one job or employer over another.

As Maree has illustrated this evening the challenges of spouse employment haven’t changed much over 30 years but the context in which they are occurring certainly has.

According to AIFS one of the most significant changes over recent decades has been the considerable growth of mothers in the workforce. Most Australian families today either need to and/or expect to be dual income to live comfortably. Our population is aging and many families care for parents as well as children.

The millennial workforce highly values work life balance. Families come in all shapes and sizes, many from collective culture backgrounds. A lack of workers is a bigger challenge for our nation than a lack of jobs, and competition for skilled workers is fierce.

Employment is a quality of life issue for all Australians. It’s pretty simple. People in meaningful work are happier and healthier than those who aren’t. A good job is good for your health and wellbeing.

Conversely, no job, or even worse a bad job, is bad for you. It is clear from the surveys and anecdotal evidence that partner employment (more specifically unemployment and underemployment) is a significant quality of life issue for ADF families.

Given that over half of all permanent ADF personnel are married, family quality of life is an important issue for the Defence community and one I think is going to increasingly influence the attractiveness of Defence as an employer.

How competitive will Defence be in recruiting and retaining talent if partner careers are
compromised? If partner careers are given up, put on hold or at best play second fiddle?

How attractive is a salary package that is seen as a single family wage? Can ADF personnel perform optimally if family wellbeing is compromised? Can Defence position itself as an employer of choice if it is not seen as contemporary and family-friendly?

Researchers from RAND Corporation state:
“In the all volunteer military force, successful recruiting and retention of active duty personnel rely on the ability of the military to afford both service members and their spouses job satisfaction and contentment with all facets of life”.

As an example, the USAF’s Air Mobility Command is facing an ongoing critical shortage of pilots and competes with the commercial sector for talent (a problem the ADF has also been tackling for many years). It’s Commander, General Everhart, states “one thing is increasingly clear: if Airmen stay or elect to depart the service, it is usually a family decision”. He has identified military spouse employment as one of two key family factors influencing retention.

You’ve probably heard the saying ‘you recruit the member but retain the family’. But I suspect that is changing. By seeking diversity with respect to age, experience, gender, and cultural backgrounds Defence will essentially be recruiting families. Defence wants and needs the ‘best and brightest’, but it is very likely that those people will be attracted to, and attract, other ‘best and brightest’ – so Defence’s employment and lifestyle offer needs to be attractive to couples, not just the individual.

Increasing recognition of, and support for, ADF partner career development is one of the
fundamental changes that Defence can make to become an employer of choice and recruit and retain the people it needs.

Support for spouse employment in the UK, US and Canada is based on recognition that 1)
family readiness contributes to operational readiness, and 2) that family quality of life is an important factor in the recruitment and retention of personnel.

The UK Armed Forces Families’ Strategy outlines seven areas that make up the ‘offer’ to
Service Families – the first of these is spouse employment. The policy states:
“evidence suggests that one of the key ‘push’ factors for Service personnel deciding to leave the Services is the difficulty experienced by their partner in finding employment. In line with our commitment to recruit and retain capable and motivated Service personnel, we will work to ensure partners are able to draw on the appropriate and necessary support to find employment, upskill or become self-employed.”

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Amanda pictured with Maree Siriois, DFA National Convenor at our recent Annual Conference Dinner.

Defence currently provides posted ADF partners with valuable support via PEAP funding to access professional career services. But this is only one piece of the puzzle and doesn’t
address the complex range of factors such as job alignment in regional areas or the influence of absences from home on partner employment.

I realize the ADF is not just any employer. There’s no other career lifestyle like this and that should be a selling point. But Defence cannot afford to assume or accept that the partner employment challenges that have been outlined for the last 30 years are just part and parcel of the job. Not if it wants to be an employer of choice.

To quote former US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter when talking about support for military families: “always, always, the mission effectiveness of our force comes first. We are not Google. We are not Walmart. We’re warfighters. But that doesn’t mean we should not be challenging ourselves just like the private sector.

To modernize our workplace and workforce, to retain and attract the top talent we need, so that our force can remain the best for future generations”. He went on to say “what we do to strengthen quality of life for our military families today, and what we do to demonstrate that we’re a family-friendly force to the people we want to recruit is absolutely— absolutely essential to our future strength”.

Just this week the US President signed the 2019 Defense Authorization Bill which includes further support for US military spouse employment. Shining a spotlight on partner employment, acknowledging it as an area of concern in its own right, enhancing support by removing it from beneath ‘mobility support’ and providing more comprehensive support, is an opportunity for us to not only improve quality of life for ADF families but in doing so to create opportunity for our Defence Force to be more competitive in the war for talent.

Finally, on a personal note. As well as a career development practitioner I’m a RAAF spouse and a mum of two boys. It would not have been possible for me to undertake the travel component of this Fellowship without the extraordinary amount of flexibility afforded to my husband by his boss here in Canberra and those responsible for his Force Prep training ahead of his deployment to Afghanistan.

I thank them for their support of our family’s priorities and my career.

Thank you

 

Positions available

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Are you a Defence partner based in Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth?

Are you posting there in 2019?

We are looking for three new National Delegates. One for South Australia (Adelaide based), one for Western Australia (Perth based) and one for Southern Queenslsnd (Brisbane based).

National Delegates are the heart and soul of DFA’s advocacy work in our regions.

They build relationships with families, Command, and stakeholders such as Defence Community Organisation, Toll, Defence Housing Australia and other Defence community groups.

They are excellent communicators who can engage compassionately with a family or professionally articulate issues for Command and other stakeholders.

National Delegates are passionate about the wellbeing of the families in their region. They can work collaboratively with Command and other stakeholders on initiatives to build strong and thriving Defence communities.

National Delegates positions are remunerated according to the Remuneration Tribunal. The current Sitting Fee is paid at $410 per day for 85 days per year.

Interested applicants should email DPG.AdvisoryBodiesSupport@defence.gov.au to request a DFA National Delegate Application Pack, which includes details of the position’s Eligibility, Terms of Office, Duties and Selection Criteria.

Applications are open until 3pm Friday 24 August for the SA and WA positions.
Applications are open until 3pm Friday 31 August for the Southern Queensland position.

Interviews will likely be during the first ansd second week in September via video conference.

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.

Denisa

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.

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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

One of the lesser known is the role of EDLO (Education Liaison Officers) 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.

The Defence School Transition Aide (DSTA) and Defence Transition Mentor (DTM) Program

In areas with large numbers of Defence families, as part to of the DSTA/DTM program many schools employ Defence school transition Aids, 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 a DSTA or a DTM take the time to introduce yourself to them. Let them know of any changes in your family situations such as deployments.

Tutoring

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 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 defencefamilyhelpline@defence.gov.au