I hope it is a truism that all parents and carers want the best for their sons. I also believe that being a parent is the most difficult and yet the most rewarding role that we will ever have. For Defence parents the role is made more difficult simply because of the career they have chosen. Defence families suffer separation because of deployments and extended exercises.
There is a wide range of support available for ADF members and spouses but the children often have to make their own way when they change schools. It can be daunting for a child to leave friends at one school and then have to make new friends at a new school, often in a new state.
In my role as Defence Support Mentor I am not able to force friendship upon students. I am relieved to find that most Defence students are resilient young men who, aided by instructions from home, find it relatively easy to make new friends. They tend not to think about the next move but just concentrate on the now.
Nevertheless, there are a small number of students, Defence and otherwise, who need assistance to cope with significant changes in their life. One of my roles is to assist students with this change.
I tend not to overburden students with frequent meetings. Rather I talk with teachers, check academic reports, and liaise with Heads of House, tutors and the college counsellor to check on students’ integration into their new environment. I don’t want Defence students to be seen as different: nor do Defence students themselves. I want Defence students and their parents to feel they are equal members of the St Edmund’s family. If I can contribute to that feeling I reckon I am doing something right.
Ian Harvey (Defence Support Mentor)