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The challenges the military throws at defence partners and families are… let’s just say unique.
There’s the moving houses, the deployments, career mis-steps and redirects, multiple schools for defence kids, the unexpected field trips and planned interstate courses, making friends and leaving them and all of the unknown.
So much of the unknown.
And while sometimes we military partners might feel like we’re struggling through it all alone, there is official help out there.
Defence Member and Family Support (formerly DCO – Defence Community Organisation) is a Department of Defence organisation created to provide help tailored to ADF members and their families as they enter the world of defence, navigate serving, transitioning out of defence and beyond.
And while DMFS can’t wave a magic wand to make problems go away, they can provide some services, programs and advice to address service-related issues, help foster connections within defence communities and better equip families to handle those ADF-related bumps in the road.
So WHO do DMFS help?
In general, DMFS supports serving members of the Australian Defence Force, their partners and children, or parents, in the case of single ADF members. But you don’t need to be married or a recognised partner to reach out to DMFS. Some services and programs are restricted to recognised spouses and children but general advice and support is open to all. The organisation also helps defence units and commanding officers when it comes to family welfare. But let’s face it, defence partners are the one’s making that call (a lot of the time) to find out about support and services or put their hand up on behalf of their family.
So WHAT do they do?
Well…a variety of stuff!
Need help navigating the different state education systems? They’ve got help on hand for that.
Want some support when your partner disappears on deployment for six months, leaving you to solo parent? DMFS can provide a friendly voice and a chat via the 24/7 hotline.
Struggling to find employment that works around defence? They can help with connecting you with the Partner Employment Assistance Program (PEAP) and a few other career-related resources.
Need to get an urgent message to a deployed ADF member? DMFS is your first point of call.
Can’t find a daycare in your new location? They know a few tricks and have contacts for defence friendly providers.
See! A variety of ADF related help!
DMFS has a range of resources and programs as well as a large team of people to help. They can even help in times of emergency or crisis and are set up to assist defence families impacted by illness or injuries, financial struggles and domestic violence, or those in need of emergency accommodation.
But you don’t need to be struggling to benefit from DMFS services. They also organise a range of social events, such as welcome and family days, in-location coffee catchups and walk and talks to help defence families connect with their community.
And if you’re still unsure if they can help in your situation, just get in contact. If DMFS can’t assist you directly, they can usually point you in the right direction to find the support, resources or program you need.
Or you could download (or request a hard copy be posted out to you) the NEW Defence Member and Family Information Guide which has a whole heap of need-to-know info in the one booklet. Stuff like where to find your local DMFS office, ADF badges of rank, overseas posting considerations, the emotional cycle of deployment and the list goes on.
Click here to get your copy now!
The DMFS team members explained…
The organisation has more than 200 staff spread across Australia, including;
Social Workers who provide in-location assessments, short-term counselling and referrals.
Military Support Officers (MSOs) who are serving members who work out of the DMFS office to assist with defence matters and liaise with ADF units and commanders.
Education Liaison Officers (EDLOs) who provide specialised education support, advice, referrals and can connect you with Defence School Mentors in your current or future location.
Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) are your go-to when it comes to connecting in with your local community. FLOs are usually the ones running the DMFS run social events, putting together the regular newsletter to keep you across what’s happening locally and all things in location.
The DMFS Patron who not only respects the sacrifice of ADF members and their families, but also knows personally what they go through day to day.
Current Patron, Belinda Johnston is a military wife AND a military mum! Her husband is Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral David Johnston AO, RAN and her daughter also serves in the ADF.
She’s done the stay-at-home mum gig, the working mum gig and the studying gig, all while juggling life as a defence partner, so she gets it.
Belinda has been the DMFS Patron since October 2019 and, through her role, works to ensure the value and contribution of ADF members and their families to Defence is supported and recognised.
To hear more about the Patron role and Belinda check out this Military Life podcast episode.
ADF Transition Coaches who guide and mentor serving members as they leave the ADF.
Military Transition Support Officers (MTSOs) who liaise with local commanders to provide an understanding of the transition process and available support programs.
So HOW do you access support?
A good place to start is www.defence.gov.au/members-families/ where you can read more about DMFS services, programs, events and news.
Through the website, you can join the email list for your local DMFS office to receive local information about upcoming events and local news or I have put together an easy to navigate list. Follow this link to sign up for your local DMFS newsletter.
You can also call DMFS on 1800 624 608, like DMFS on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are still wondering what DMFS are all about or worried about reaching out for any of the support or resources mentioned above check out this Military Life Podcast episode all about DMFS (when it was still called DCO).