Survey reinforces family focus

Published on CMDR Fenn Kemp (author), ABIS Bonny Gassner (photographer)

Former RN officer and wife of LCDR John Campbell, Susie Campbell with their sons Patrick age 4 and Thomas age 7 at Baringa Bush Garden, Seaforth. (photo: ABIS Bonny Gassner)
Former RN officer and wife of LCDR John Campbell, Susie Campbell with their sons Patrick age 4 and Thomas age 7 at Baringa Bush Garden, Seaforth.

The data gathered from a survey of more than 4,600 Defence families will be used to better inform personnel policy for Navy people.

The 2017 ADF Families survey asked for views on a range of issues including partner employment and childcare access. Most partners were from civilian backgrounds and of those, 68 per cent said they were proud to tell others that they were part of the Defence family.  But civilian partners listed access to employment and childcare as major concerns during posting moves. While almost all of those who responded were able to access some form of childcare, 58 per cent said the high cost of childcare was stopping them from accessing childcare properly – a result in line with similar surveys of the civilian workforce.

Director General of Navy People Branch, Commodore Michele Miller said the data would be used to support Navy people.

“If a Navy family isn’t happy, then the Navy person won’t be either, so these results have a direct bearing on our workforce capability and Navy’s ability to achieve its mission,” Commodore Miller said.

Already the Defence Community Organisation sponsored Partner Employment Assistance Program can help partners be job-ready for a new location. Additionally, the ‘Navy Resilience Plan’ is designed to educate and inform Navy people on ways to maintain a healthy work life balance. As well as its focus on the physical, moral and mental aspects of resilience, the Plan acknowledges the importance of external elements such as family support agencies.

Flexible Work Arrangements are becoming more widely used which can allow the time needed for families to adjust their conditions to suit their current needs.

“The uptake of Flexible Work Arrangements across the Navy is increasing, and indeed, more men than women are using them and for many reasons, not just related to care for children which we frequently associate it with,” Commodore Miller said.

“Flexible Work Arrangements can be part of the answer to lift some pressure and give a bit more day-to-day flexibility. They can also bring enormous benefit to both the Navy person and their managers.”

A key contributor to family stress is often housing. However, a recent Defence Housing Authority poll has shown that here too, efforts to improve the service are starting to pay off.

More then 90 per cent of customers said they were now happy with efforts to locate a property – up from 88 per cent two years ago. Reflecting the improved standard of homes, 97 per cent said they were happy with the condition of the home when they moved in with 93 per cent saying they were happy with maintenance.

“Retention of good people often has much to do with their families; it’s up to all of us to step up our efforts to be better informed about what Defence can do for our families, talk about the options, and to use the help that’s available.  When we retain our good people we build our capability to fight and win at sea.”