A new council for women and families is set to provide direct policy advice to the Federal Government.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester today launched the Council for Women and Families United by Defence Service and said it would provide a forum for women and families to have a direct voice into his office on issues for Defence Members and families. “Our Government is committed to putting veterans and their families first and it is important that we know what impact defence service has on these groups and they are represented by a united voice,” Minister Chester said. “Service within the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has impacts beyond the serving member – families are the primary support network for members through their ADF service and beyond. The women who wear our nation’s uniform are also mothers, partners, sisters and daughters. This brings with it its own set of unique challenges.”

The Council will comprise representatives from across Australia, and reflect the broadest definition of family. Mrs Rhondda Vanzella OAM, current President of the NSW War Widows’ Guild will act as interim chair, while the council is established.

Rhondda will be joined by a broad range of members including female veterans, partners, mothers, extended family, and widows. It will include Gwen Cherne, a widow and also a member of the NSW War Widows’ Guild who attended the launch. “I am delighted to be a part of this Council,” Gwen said. “Something I feel very passionate about is ensuring that women and families, who in some way have a connection to our defence force, are supported and that the government hears our voices.”

Minister Chester said the Council will work closely with other stakeholders, from ex-service organisations to individuals with an interest in the matters it is advocating for, and then to advise the Government. The Council will meet regularly throughout the year and will inform and advise the Government on relevant matters.

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