Thinking about transitions, veterans' advice, individual and family strengths

Research shows that families think about leaving defence long before they take any steps to do so. The 2019 Parliamentary Inquiry into Transitions from the ADF reported:

'It is never too early to plan for leaving the Armed Forces: unexpected doesn’t have to mean unplanned; Families want to be involved in their Service leaver’s transition (p. 37)

More than 5000 members leave defence each year, although if you count reservists, the number is well over 7000. The reasons they leave vary and may include:

  • retirement
  • involuntary medical separation
  • administrative or contractual changes
  • voluntary separation, or
  • other involuntary separation.

You can learn more about the separation statistics from this Australian Institute of Health and Welfare webpage. Of those who give a reason as to why they are leaving, about 45% of members leave voluntarily, about 13% (males) or 17% (females) leave because of involuntary medical separation, and 10% (males) and 13% (females) leave due to a contractual or administrative change.

Those who leave voluntarily say 'family' as the most common reason they are leaving the military. Research shows that families discuss these issues a long time before they separate from defence. For example, in Rogers' (2017) Australian study, one partner said:

'We had never planned for it to be Caleb’s career forever. In the end we chose to leave much earlier because of the promotion they offered him. This meant he was going to be away more often for training. When Jess turned 3 we realised Caleb had only been there 1 year of her life'.

Veterans and those who support veteran families advise that care needs to be taken about the conversations parents have about transitioning from defence. Children are likely to overhear these discussions, creating stress and uncertainty for the child.

You can advise parents that it is best to wait until they have a clear plan before discussing these issues where children might overhear. Even very young children might not understand every word, but they often pick up on the tone of the conversation and the stress levels attached to parents' discussions.

The 2019 Parliamentary Inquiry into Transition from the ADF found:

'Women and men in transition are looking for the same sorts of things – financial security, employment, housing, health stability, spouse employment, children’s schooling. Once those things have been achieved, they can move forward with the rest of their life' (p. 78).

Using individual and family strengths

Each family member and each family has their own unique strengths. It is a good time to revisit Module 1 (Discovering strengths, building resilience, staying connected) to revise these strengths so you can support families to utilise them during the transition.

Supporting the family through the transition

Module 8 of the parent resources has a section about ways to support children and the family through times of transition (in military family life). It will also be useful to explore this Module.


Rogers, M. (2017). Young children's understanding and experiences of parental deployment within an Australian Defence Force family. School of Education. Armidale, Australia, University of New England. Doctor of Philosophy. 10.13140/RG.2.2.26497.61281

Last modified: Saturday, 8 October 2022, 3:29 PM