The first step for being a sensitive and effective advocate involves values, beliefs, professional actions, and workplace behaviours. The more you get to know about the challenges service families face, you may be able to act as a source of knowledge. You can share that knowledge with:

  • other educators,
  • other families, and
  • those organisations that you usually refer families to.
It is important to remember that others you work with may not have had much experience with service families, so providing some context may be very helpful to them and the families. You can refer people to websites, readings, and other sources of information so they can build their knowledge.

Speaker, Lecturer, Speech, Conference

Advocating for children from service families

Awareness of the misconceptions and political correctness around service families is a must; being aware that they are not a homogenous group is part of this understanding. Some educators fear discussing anything sensitive. This might be because they fear:

  • the information is top-secret and/or
  • that by opening discussions, they are promoting war (defence), and/or
  • that by opening discussions, they are facilitating violence.
Ensure that educators in your service and other services you work with understand the diversity of military and first responder service.

Effective advocates need facts rather than popular opinions and partial information. Before you pass on information to families, make sure you find out the essential information and can verify the source.

Sometimes, some media and social media sources do not give correct information. e.g. a common misconception can be 'first responder families are resilient', ‘defence families get lots of support, so we don’t need to support them in our service’ or ‘military families don’t want help’.

Take parents' and children’s concerns and issues seriously, even if there is not much they can do about the situation they find themselves in. For example, if a parent is away for the next five months, there are many support strategies you and the parent can implement for the child, however, the parent being away is a reality.

woman holding signage

Advocating for service families

Make space for families by considering catering for occasional care days available when families leave, or children are sick. Ask families to let their service know when they know they will be away. Keep a register of families interested in extra occasional care or partial days so they can be called in.

Realise that military families are often given little notice to move to a new area and may not be able to get into your service easily. Think about ‘at-risk children and how they may be catered for within the rules. 

Try to follow the Defence Member and Family Support, Fortem Australia and MESHA on Facebook to improve your knowledge. If you are knowledgeable and welcoming to defence families, they will let others know you have inclusive practices and approaches with military families.

girl standing near plants

Minority groups

Like any group within society, defence families come from very different backgrounds and have very different lifestyles. These include Indigenous families and the DEFGLIS community.

Non-linked reference

Gonzalez-Mena, J. (2007). Advocacy. 50 early childhood strategies for working and communicating with diverse families (pp. 1–7). Prentice Hall.

Last modified: Monday, 18 December 2023, 3:31 PM