Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 3 2009 Contents 34
DeFenCe suPPoRt GRouP
hen members of the
ADf pack their bags
and leave home, be it
for deployment, exercise
or time at sea, most will
also be thinking about the
families they leave behind.
The Defence Community Organisation (DCO)
is committed to helping ADF families through the
challenges presented by Service life.
Such assistance can take the shape of
providing pre-deployment briefings for family
members when an ADF member is absent for
Service reasons, holding social events and activities,
and providing vital support in emergencies.
Northern Australia currently has a high
proportion of ADF members who are absent from
home. DCO in Townsville is a very busy office
supporting thousands of ADF families, many of
whom have a member deployed.
Area Manager-DCO Townsville Karen Green is
positive about the range of services and activities
that families can access in the local area.
“We do a lot of preparation before
deployments, working with the deploying Unit
and their HQ to prepare both members and their
families,” Ms Green said.
“At the moment we are involved in pre-
deployment activities, with the set of measures
we are putting in place that our staff has named
‘Operation Home Front’. Our aim is to assist
families to cope with the absence of a family
member and still get the most out of their posting
DCO Townsville runs programs for partners
of ADF members to prepare them for what to
expect when the member is absent on duty. In
particular the very successful Surviving Service
Separations program, or SSS as it is locally known,
is a five-week educational program that explores
the emotional cycle of deployment, helps partners
maintain healthy relationships with deployed
partners, and very importantly provides techniques
for dealing with the blues that can be associated
“It’s also hard for children when one of their
parents is gone for a long time – some young
children might not understand where mum or dad
has gone, and some may have trouble adjusting to
new routines,” Ms Green said.
“We have taken the ‘Kids of Defence’ program
and developed it further into a new program called
Mastering Emotions During Absences and Learning
Skills, or MEDALS. This is a five-week course for
children, aimed at normalising and validating their
emotional responses to challenging situations, like
when a parent is absent. The program also works to
enhance children’s skills in resilience and coping.”
While ADF members are deployed, DCO
Townsville does its best to keep in touch with
families through regular phone calls, social events
like morning teas, and the bi-monthly newsletter
Gone Troppo, all of which help to keep families
informed and connected.
There are also family support centres at
Lavarack Barracks and RAAF Townsville, providing
a venue for families to meet informally to discuss
how they are managing, form social networks and
exchange ideas on how to approach the specific
challenges that can arise when a family member is
absent on service.
Director General Defence Community
Organisation Michael Callan is enthusiastic about
the services provided in Townsville and in DCO
offices around the country.
“The programs being developed, the way
we’re helping families to connect and support each
other – this is exactly what we want to achieve,”
said Mr Callan.
“Our over-riding strategy is one of
encouraging self reliance. We want to create a
Defence community with strength and flexibility
that can help our families get the most out of the
opportunities the Defence lifestyle offers.
“The work of the DCO offices around
Australia, including Karen Green and her team in
Townsville, is giving families a really good chance
to thrive in the Defence environment.”
For more information on the Defence
Community Organisation, you can visit the DCO
website at www.defence.gov.au/dco.
Absent from home
a focus on support to ADF families in Townsville
ABOVe: DcO’s Townsville team: (seated L-R): Jen Black, Kim Davis; (standing L-R): Karen Green,
Gail Macdonald, Michelle Gurkin, Rachel Baker, Ros Boyd, sandie Wilson, Joelene Browne,
sQNLDR Ken Kemp, Leigh Livingstone and celeste Rodgers
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