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Think Piece: From a Partner’s Perspective

Thursday 10 August, 2017

Does anyone really consider what they are taking on when they become a defence partner? I didn’t, that’s for sure. You meet someone, you fall in love, and you start your lives together. It’s that simple in a lot of ways.

But time gives perspective. Even though I was a defence kid, it was not until I began sharing my life with my partner that I really understood what it meant to be in a defence family and the importance of his contribution to our nation.

My Dad was an Army cook. We moved around a little bit when I was young, but from the age of four  we lived in Adelaide. I completed my schooling and tertiary studies in Adelaide. I studied Arts and Law at University and went on to work as a youth worker and I am now a lawyer.

As we didn’t regularly move around, my Dad going off to his job in the Army was part and parcel of normal family life.

I met Brad in high school – he was my best friend – but it wasn’t until a few years ago that we reconnected. Brad has always had Navy blood flowing through his veins. He’s been in the Royal Australian Navy for 19 years and is now a Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician.

Through my relationship with Brad, I see how much he loves his work and how important this work is. He is a dedicated, hard-working, patient and kind person. These are great traits in any person, but in a member of the defence force, they are essential.

Our first child, Evie May, was born seven months ago. Brad is a devoted and loving dad, however sometimes his time with Evie is cut short due to having to go away for work. I know that a deployment of many months is in our future and I know how much Brad will miss Evie. He will be away when she hits some of her developmental milestones. This is a huge sacrifice but one that he willingly makes for his country. This is what he signed up for, and although I wasn’t really aware of depth of this sacrifice at the start of our relationship, I signed up for it too.

I wear many hats these days, but one of my most important roles is that of a supporting partner to Brad. I consider this to mean that I am part of the bigger picture also and contribute to looking after our nation’s defence needs. I am so proud to do it because I am so proud of Brad.

It is an amazing thing to serve your country. It is amazing to be able to work in a job that you love. Brad is blessed in that he gets to do both of these things.

During the Anzac Centenary I have taken the time to remember and be proud of my great uncles who both served in the armed forces and of other family members who fought in the World Wars. They believed in honour, honesty, courage, integrity and loyalty, values that continue in our family today.

It means the world to me that we now have the opportunity to instil these core values in our daughter and to help her understand the importance of her Dad’s work. This led me to write my book, My Dad’s in the Australian Navy, to help her understand what her Dad does and why he needs to go away, sometimes for long periods.

As it turns out, many other Navy families were looking for a similar resource and the popularity of the book snowballed. It also led to other books such as My Mum’s in the Australian Navy and books written about both mums and dads who serve in the Army and Air Force.

I am delighted and proud that these books are serving an important role in helping ease children’s anxiety and discomfort when a parent is deployed. It is my hope that these books will help other children feel a little less sad when missing their parents.

It is also a great reminder to me that the defence family network is available to families.  It is a fantastic, supportive and incredibly important community who understand the challenges of having a family member in the services. Without it, the lives of defence partners and spouses would be tough. It certainly makes it easier to have the support of others who understand the lifestyle and the difficulties that are endured during these times of separation.

I am relatively new to the defence family but I am very proud of the men and women who have served and are currently serving in the forces today. Although I didn’t really think about what I was getting myself into, I feel so blessed to be part of Brad’s life, his career and so privileged to have met and become great friends with my extended defence family.

You know the saying “you can choose your friends but not your family”? Well, that’s not entirely true. My defence friends became my defence family. And that’s something to be celebrated.

Hayley Ann Boswell is a lawyer, mum and proud partner of a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Australian Navy. The defence series of children’s books that Hayley has created is aimed at giving young children a tool for understanding the important work undertaken by their defence parents.

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