The impacts of service in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) disproportionately affect women in tangible and intangible ways. For example, it is well known that many women, civilian in particular, struggle to develop and maintain a career due to the mobility of the ADF and the extra responsibilities they have in supporting their service member, allowing them to give their job and their role their entire focus.
There are impacts for these women in terms of their superannuation and financial security. There are also many intangible aspects as women are still expected to play traditional gender roles within this environment in addition to taking responsibility, sometimes sole responsibility, for all areas of their family’s life. This is amplified when a woman is widowed as a result of service or is the primary carer for a veteran who is wounded, injured or ill as a result of their service. The mental load and the pressure that veterans’ families, and women in particular, carry is excessive and leads to burnout.
This International Women’s Day we shine a light on gender bias within our community to validate and recognise the experience of women and highlight their contribution in defence of Australia. Or to put it another way, as another element of defence capability and the veterans support system.
At AWWNSW, we have highlighted the voices of women and their experiences within a male dominated sector for 75 years. We continue to strengthen our voice by welcoming and creating a home for all widows, women and families connected to defence service.
The institutional expectations on women far exceed the expectations on their male counterparts and that is a bias we need to highlight and break.
We need to recognise and value the role of women whether they be serving or civilian. Those that are connected to the defence force carry an awful lot for the defence and veterans’ system. It is time that we helped them. Starting a conversation and highlighting the impacts is the first step. Widows, women and veterans’ families deserve to be more than a by-line in veteran policy.
AWW NSW advocates for the needs of women and families of veterans connected to defence service. We provide a voice for our members and community to ensure their views are represented across areas that impact upon them.