Dr Amy Johnson.
Dr Amy Johnson.

Calls for more support as COVID deployment splits families

A ROCKHAMPTON researcher and Federal Government adviser says more needs to be done for military families during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Amy Johnson, who is an adviser to the Council for Women and Families United by Defence Service and is married to a navy sailor with two children, said the Australian Defence Force deployment to help with COVID-19 has distressed families.

She said people were being given less notice about deployment and were often required to quarantine before returning home.

“My husband has been working in Sydney this year, and when he started we thought he’d be able to travel home every six weeks or so,” Dr Johnson said.

“But because of border closures, and his work monitoring international arrivals as part of OPCOVID, we’ve only seen him once since February.

“It’s great that we’ve been able stay in touch with Zoom and phone calls, as opposed to when he’s deployed with very limited contact, but at times it’s maddening that he’s just a 15 hour drive away, and yet it’s the longest we’ve ever been separated.”

Dr Johnson said that military families understood responding to the virus required flexibility, but that she felt the ADF understands and recognises the extra challenges for them, too.

“I’ve heard it time and again: people tend to say ‘Well, this is what you sign up for, what if we went to war?,” she said.

“But the truth is, no one expected this pandemic and the ADF’s role here, so the uncertainty takes a big toll.”

Dr Johnson is one of nine new advisers to the council announced by Defence Personnel Minister Darren Chester last week.

She said her priority in the job would be changing the public’s perceptions of military families.

“There’s a perception of defence partners, and especially those ones in care-giving roles, that all that’s required of them is self-sacrifice, and just keeping the home fires burning,” she said.

“But actually, they can bring huge positives to their communities, to workplaces – they’re really strong, and they’re more than just partners and mothers.”

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