For those outside of the Defence community who have not experienced Defence life it may be difficult to understand how children are affected by a parent’s military service.

Defence life looks different for each family, however in most circumstances frequent relocations, long periods of separation from the serving parent (or parents), isolation and extended family support networks are all experiences that are unique to Defence families.

Children may be affected in different ways so it is important that educators have a good understanding of what Defence children may be going through to ensure that appropriate support is provided in a timely and effective way.

Do all Defence children require educational support?

On top of the normal ups and downs of growing up, children and adolescents in ADF families also face a unique set of challenges as they endure parental absence, frequent relocations and continual changes. If supported appropriately, these challenges can help to build resilience, self-confidence and independence in the child and can be a rewarding experience.

Schools that identify Defence families in their community are encouraged to reach out to Defence Member and Families Support to check eligibility for additional support and resourcing to ensure students with a current or former serving parent are adequately supported and can reach their full potential.

The ADF Aware Program assists educators and school staff to better understand the unique needs of students with parents or guardians in the ADF and how to provide suitable support to Defence students.

Defence families benefit from clear communication and explanations. It’s important to remember that each state will have different names and approaches for similar concepts, so be prepared to patiently explain things which may seem ‘obvious’.

Support for Schools

Defence School Mentors are placed in eligible schools with high numbers of Defence children. They provide ‘on the ground’ support and work with the child, the family and educators to minimise the impact of Defence life on the child’s education. Mentors are based within primary and secondary schools across Australia and provide on-site direct and flexible assistance to the students, parents, teachers and other support staff.

Each state is assigned an Education Liaison Officer (EDLO) that provides support to families as part of Defence Member and Family Support (DMFS) education advisory service. The state EDLO provides families with advice, referrals and specialised assistance for their individual circumstances.

The DMFS website provides a summary of the services available to Defence families, including a series of helpful fact sheets that provide more detailed information.

Resources for teachers and families

EC Defence Programs has developed an extensive research-based online resource for families, educators and social workers that facilitates an understanding of Defence life and its impact on children. The online portal includes valuable e-books, activities and videos that are engaging and insightful.

The resources may also be used by parents to help children understand the contributions that their serving parent is making as part of the ADF, and how to manage emotions and changes that occur as a result of Defence life.

Several Anzac Day and Remembrance Day resources are also available and are equally as engaging and educational for non-Defence children as they are for Defence families.

Veterans SA is committed to ensuring that the wider South Australian community understands and acknowledges current and former serving ADF personnel and their families. We are developing a number of resources to support the understanding that those who serve, and their families, actively contribute to the benefit of the community.

The Understanding the Veteran Community video (below) introduces these concepts and has been developed to challenge stereotypes and narratives often associated with veterans and help educate the broader community on what “defence life” looks like.

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