Page 4124 - Week 11 - Thursday, 21 September 2017

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I tell my story only because it is an insight into what thousands of Canberra families and families all over this country have been through. Ms Lawder is a former defence wife who has been through the same stress. There are staff who work here in this building who are married and partnered to Defence Force personnel who have been deployed over the last couple of years while we have been doing our business here. We have seen them shoulder the load as their spouses and partners have been away, running busy households and holding down jobs all alone, with only sporadic phone calls and emails from the dads and mums millions of miles away.

When the deployed members get home, it is happy and it is sad. It is good to see them again after managing everything alone, but the re-entry process for ADF members is not always easy. Simple tasks like who will wash the dishes or take out the rubbish can be tough to renegotiate. It is like moving in together for the first time all over again, learning to share your space and finances with those who have been deployed.

For them, learning to live the mundane daily family life of suburban Australia can be a very stressful business after living in heightened tension for months on end in deployments. Bernard told me that the thing that stressed him most when he got back was hearing a radio advertisement for how to pack your children’s lunchboxes. He said it just struck him that we are so smothered by government in this country that we are not really free to just make our own decisions and get on with our lives. That really upset him. That is not an uncommon experience for someone returning from a war zone.

One friend of mine said that her husband struggles to listen to his children complain about their First World problems after what he has seen overseas. I knew one lady whose husband would drop to the floor if ever she accidentally slammed the freezer, because in his mind he thought it might be a mortar attack.

All in all, our defence members do, after some months, generally readjust to daily life back in Canberra. We hear a lot about the suffering of veterans, and that is real, but, as my husband always points out, there are many veterans who are doing fine. And, more than that, they are everywhere you go. They are making you a coffee in a cafe or servicing your car. They are working in your office, running a small business or working as contractors all over Canberra and Australia.

In many ways they are just the same as everyone else, blending in and doing their part. However, in particular they are doers and they are joiners. Former and current ADF members are people who realise that society is what you make it and that community does not just happen, that a good society can be a fragile thing and needs maintenance. They know that people need to pitch in and be a part of the communities they create. Every community organisation I go to in this city has defence members and veterans in it because in their DNA is service and the idea of putting their community first.

I believe Canberra is much the richer for all that they do for us every day. I thank them for their service. I am glad that, as a result of Mr Hanson’s lobbying, we now have a serious shadow minister and a minister for veterans here in the ACT, where so

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