HomeFront research explores creative connection for ADF partners

31 March 2023

An innovative storytelling project is set to give Townsville’s defence force families support to share their unique experiences, in a bid to grow connection and reduce isolation in the defence community.

Led by CQUniversity researchers, HomeFront Stories offers free workshops to partners of past and present Australian Defence Force (ADF) members, to develop narratives around the challenges they’ve faced.  

Dr Amy Johnson is a CQU Communications academic, the wife of an Australian Navy veteran, and an advocate for all defence families through her research.

Along with CQU colleagues Dr Nadia Mead and Ali Hickling, Dr Johnson is working with Townsville’s Oasis veteran wellbeing centre, Military Life podcast, and CreatePlace creative writing facilitators to deliver the four-month project.

Applications are now open for the first workshop series, held on Wednesday and Thursday 19-20 April 2023, at The Oasis Townsville.

Dr Johnson said storytelling, including a focus on humour, might help participants address the challenges and benefits of military family life.

“While research into the well-being of personnel and veterans exists, less work has been done to understand the lived experience of military spouses and families – and despite their tenacity, ADF partners are impacted as a result of military service,” she explained.

Creative arts programs have offered significant benefits to military members and veterans experiencing mental health challenges, and have grown connection to community.

“This is the first time a creative program will include ADF partners, and we look forward to observing the potential benefits that this fun and supportive process can deliver,” she said.

HomeFront Stories community partner, Beck Rayner founded the podcast Military Life four years ago, and has since built a national community of ADF families.

She said sharing her own stories, and those of other partners helped to connect the ADF community.

“For my first 10 years as the spouse of a Navy member, I didn’t feel part of a community or that I fitted in any of the locations we had been posted to,” she explained.

Moving to the NSW South Coast, the mum of three found a supportive network in the defence community – and that inspired her to help provide one for other families.

“I suddenly felt like I could take on anything military life threw at me, but then I started to wonder, what if there are defence partners out there who haven’t found this?” she said.

“I wanted every military spouse to have the opportunity to feel seen and heard for all that they sacrifice, juggle and overcome, and for the amazing things they do on a daily basis.

“And I’m excited to continue that through the HomeFront Stories project, too.”

With space for 20 participants, the Homefront Stories program will provide a platform for the stories developed within workshops to be published online, or shared via the Military Life podcast, while participants ​​​​retain copyright the of work.

For more information email a.hickling@cqu.edu.au, or sign up via: https://cqu.syd1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dpwA3ceTquJ3l42?fbclid=IwAR1MSM7GUGhkSM9keWXs2vhLLN-_BGfEPD7Jc2MUP9tspdrP0k2s1yuSCHk

Follow the HomeFront Stories project on Instagram @homefront_stories and @HomeFrontStoriesProject on Facebook.