What to expect from your time apart and reunion and how to look after yourself, find support and manage the challenges of deployment. You can also explore ways to stay informed about the operation or exercise, and communicate with the deployed member.
Defence provides a range of support to the families of deployed ADF members, including regular contact from our support staff and practical assistance during emergencies.
Defence’s Global Operations website outlines the ADF’s operations within Australia or overseas. There are factsheets, new stories and up-to-date information for each deployment currently in effect.
The ADF member's unit will often hold briefs or events for families during the deployment which may give you updates as well as an opportunity to connect with other Defence families. Contact the unit directly for more information.
The National Welfare Coordination Centre (NWCC) provides a 24-7 information and referral service for families of deployed ADF members. The NWCC is staffed by Service personnel who can help with deployment queries such as mailing addresses and postal regulations, give you current information about operations, and pass urgent information to the deployed member.
All deploying members are required to complete an Emergency Contact Notification Information form, which is lodged with NWCC to confirm the members’ chosen emergency contact details. Be aware if you are listed as your ADF member’s emergency contact, you will need to let NWCC know if your contact details change or you go away on holiday.
Communication between the deployed member and the family at home is essential to help you to:
With this in mind, try to make your communications frequent and positive. Discuss the communication options before the deployment and stick to your agreed plan wherever you can. Be clear, open and honest about your experiences and feelings. Try to limit negative emotions and responses as they can be difficult to resolve when you are not face-to-face.
Be aware that direct modes of communication such as telephone and Skype may not be available in particular locations or may only be sporadically available. Email and electronic communications may also be restricted.
The conditions of the deployment will stipulate what sort of communication you can use and when, and you should be able to find out these details from the unit or the National Welfare Coordination Centre .
Make sure you have the member’s PMKeyS number and their unit contact details noted correctly and in full. If you’re unsure of the details, call the National Welfare Coordination Centre on 1800 801 026. The NWCC is also the place to call if you need to relay an urgent message to the deployed member
ADF members often commend letters as the best form of communication from home, as they can be read and reread any time and aren’t dependent on online or telephone access.
You don’t have to be restricted to standard letters—you can include cards, postcards, artwork, local news snippets or photos.
Write your letters as if talking directly to your loved one, but make sure to express yourself clearly so there’s no room for misinterpretation or confusion. Express your appreciation for previous letters or other communications, mentioning one or two points of special interest and answering any questions that may have been raised.
It’s a good idea to date or number each letter so that if more than one letter is received at once, the deployed member will know which one was written first.
For the ADF member sending letters to home, consider sending individual letters to each family member (especially if you have more than one child) and where you can without encroaching on operation restrictions, include descriptions of your activities or photos of your living quarters to give your family an idea of your life away.
Care packages can be like sending a little bit of home to the deployed member. Packages can contain gifts, food items and toiletries. You might create special CDs or DVDs, but make sure that the member has access to the appropriate equipment to view them.
For care packages it is best to use sturdy containers and to use caution sending perishable goods. Keep in mind your package may be subject to quarantine inspection and may also be opened in front of others, so it is wise not to send private or embarrassing material.
When sending anything by post, make sure the member’s unit details and full address are clear and correct. Keep in mind there may be delays in delivery. Free postage applies for all mail up to two kilograms (cubed), with the exception of post to Malaysia.
To check addresses or any weight or content restrictions for the particular deployment, contact the member’s unit or call the National Welfare Coordination Centre on 1800 801 026.
For more information about Defence mail service and postage costs, call Australia Post on 13 76 78.
Telephone communication gives you direct contact with your loved one and is often available during deployment, though the length of calls may be limited and they can become expensive especially when made to mobile phones or to distant locations. You may find it useful to make a list of important things to tell each other before making the call.
Emails, internet video calls and social networking sites are another avenue for families to share experiences and connect with each other, but are entirely reliant on the member having access to the internet. Video calling options like Skype will also require a webcam. If using social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, keep in mind not to share sensitive or indecent material as posted material becomes part of a public forum and leaves your control.Check with the unit to see whether these communications are allowed for the operation, and to find out any special addresses you will need to know.
Time apart & reunion
Experiencing a variety of intense emotions during your time apart and reunion is completely normal, and knowing what to expect can make the feelings much easier to manage.
During the time apart, you will usually go through a period of adjustment-your lifestyle and routine may be disrupted, and you may feel a sense of loss, loneliness or anxiety. As you begin to settle into your new routine, find new support and gain in independence and self-confidence, these feelings normally begin to subside.
Be aware of the support services that are available to you during deployment.
Establish a new routine as early as possible, as this can help you to handle your day-to-day commitments and gives you a sense of normality.
Talk through your emotions or concerns with a close friend or family member who you trust to be supportive. It is important to be able to express what you’re feeling and to realise you are not alone. We can help you to connect with your community to find other Defence families who can share their experiences, strategies and support with you.
Look after yourself. Make sure to exercise, eat well and get enough sleep, as being healthy helps you to feel good emotionally as well as physically. Avoid too much of vices - like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine as they may give you immediate comfort but take a long-term toll and do not actively improve your stress levels. Treat yourself now and again with a favourite activity or a 'night off'.
Look after each other. All the ADF member’s loved ones at home will be dealing with the member’s absence, and you can support and help each other through the deployment, whether it’s by spending time together doing activities you enjoy or talking through your feelings.
Learn relaxation and stress management techniques to help you to unwind and respond more positively to life events and challenges. You might choose to do this through our FamilySMART program or through a meditation or yoga course.
Keep busy. Time passes more quickly when you are occupied. You might choose to learn something new, take a course, or volunteer or contribute to your community somehow. Think of the time apart as a chance to grow and to get involved in things that make you happy.
Seek help if you are experiencing negative emotions - such as anger, abandonment or anxiety - for prolonged periods, or are facing other difficulties in the member’s absence. You can call the all-hours Defence Member and Family Helpline on 1800 624 608 for support, advice or referral, night or day.
Related Mental health and wellbeing
In the lead-up to reunion you may experience excitement and anticipation as well as worries and doubts, as you wonder about your place with each other, changes that might have taken place and the other person’s feelings toward you.
When you first reunite, it’s common to feel a little awkwardness, especially after long absences, and it may take time to re-establish closeness and easy face-to-face communication.
Both the homecoming member and the family members at home may have changed and undergone personal growth. Be prepared for this, as the other person may not perfectly match your memory or expectation of them and there may be some realignment of your relationship.
You will likely have to make some changes to your routines and roles, as what worked before the time apart may not be the best fit for you any more.
Talk openly and honestly through any changes, and make sure to give each other the time and space to adjust to your new life together.
If you are having difficulties readjusting, the human services professionals at the Defence Member and Family Helpline can direct you to resources or services that may help. You can contact the Defence Member and Family Helpline day or night on 1800 624 608.In some cases, the ADF member may be dealing with some serious stress responses from their deployment.
Support and guidance is available from the Defence Member and Family Helpline or the ADF All-hours Support Line on 1800 628 036.