Without data we won’t know the extent of the impact of Covid 19 on ADF families. I believe it is imperative to establish what impact Covid 19 has had on ADF families. How many partners were able to work remotely? What was that experience like for them and their employers? How many partners lost jobs or hours? How many relied on Jobseeker or Jobkeeper payments? How many partners are working in at-risk jobs or industries? How many elected to reduce hours in order to meet family needs? How many ADF members were able to work flexibly and help with caring responsibilities such as remote learning for school students? What was the ADF workforce experience of remote work? Were frontline/essential workers able to meet the demands on them? Did flexible working practices of ADF members support the employment arrangements of ADF partners? Did any ADF partners access their superannuation early? How are families faring emotionally and financially? How did the restrictions associated with Covid separation from ADF members and from extended families due to restrictions and border closures affect families, and what effect will this have on their decisions for the future?
The pandemic has brought us challenges, but also a (perhaps) once in a lifetime chance to create a better future, a “new normal”. With such rapidly occurring and large-scale social and labour market changes it is important for us all to understand how defence families are faring, and the context in which they are now living and making decisions, in order to make important decisions for the immediate and longer-term future. This is important for families, but also to the ADF in terms of recruitment, retention and capability. And that also makes it a national security issue.
Earlier this year I enquired whether the Department of Defence would be conducting research on Covid and ADF families. The answer was no. I hope this does not remain the case.