Understanding Defence Partners
Who is a Defence Partner?
The term Defence partner usually means the civilian spouse or partner of the ADF member. Despite not putting on a uniform themselves (though, of course, some partners are veterans or serving members too), partners experience many aspects of military life.
What are some of the biggest challenges faced by partners?
Some of the biggest challenges faced by partners are a direct result of their military connection, including deployments. Military family research shows many partners experience anxiety, loneliness, sleep disturbances and physical health changes during deployment periods.
Relocations are another significant aspect of military life which have a big impact on partners. Military families relocate every two years on average. Imagine having to re-establish yourself in a new community every second year. This might mean a new job, new medical providers, new routines, finding new schools for children and new vets for pets – let alone new friends and social connections.
Sometimes getting access to the right support can be challenging, especially for partners who don’t fit the ‘ideal’ military partner model – usually a woman in a relationship with a male serving member, married with small children under 10 years of age. This ‘ideal’ is unattainable for most, or, at best, is fleeting.
Partners have reported feeling pressured to show resilience and hide negative emotions like dependence, vulnerability, fright and worry.
This is also hard for families who don’t have children, or who otherwise can feel left out of programs designed for families with young kids.
What are some of the best ways to improve well-being for partners?
Research tells us that employment and strong social connections are two of the strongest predictive factors of partner well-being. That means employment opportunities for partners that are flexible enough to cope with the complex demands of military life but also utilise their skills and experience.
Finding friends and a local community who and can support the entire family is also important.