What Others Say about Women Veterans Network Australia

I became associated with WVNA soon after my medical discharge from the Royal Australian Air Force in September 2015. My inability to continue to meet the medical fitness requirements of service within the Australian Defence Force resulted due to injuries sustained on operational service in East Timor in 2004. I had successfully fought to continue to serve for 11 years after initial injury, and as such I found that my discharge and transition from service was particularly difficult. Not only did I feel ashamed that I had failed to continue to provide service to my country, but I entered a period of grief for the professional, social and personal identity associated with my service.

I was proactive in reaching out to ex-Service Organisations to assist me to navigate my transition from the ADF and whilst all were helpful, many were focused upon junior, mostly male personnel of the Army and as such I did not feel connected to any, nor entirely welcome, until I attended a WVNA “catch-up”.

WVNA does not demonstrate bias based upon service branch, rank reached in service, nor period or location of operational service, offering all women who have served in the ADF an avenue of social connection and education. Through WVNA I rediscovered my sense of value and purpose, not as a member of the ADF, but as a veteran and as a Returned Service Nurse. WVNA offered me a social connection to people with whom I could openly share my experiences of service and of transition and with whom I could begin to move forward in my life beyond service.

Wing Commander Sharon Bown (Retd)

Australian Air Force

I served in Vietnam as a Nursing Officer at 1st Australian Field Hospital, Vung Tau 1968-69. Many would be aware of the political climate at the time. We were ostracised, not allowed to wear our uniform in public, banned from RSL and other military organisations.

This was a very upsetting time for me as I was proud that I had served my country. Support of any kind for women was not available at that time.  So, it was not until my late 50s early 60s that I was diagnosed with PTSD. Previously I had been diagnosed with chronic diseases, unknown to me at the time are associated with PTSD.

I received medical support, however, there was something more that I needed. That was, a listening ear of people who had experienced what I had. Feelings of loss, withdrawal, not coping with everyday life situations.

I often wondered how other women who served had managed their lives since Vietnam. I wondered where they were and who was looking after them. I always thought of them and prayed for them.

I found some of these wonderful women and have been a member now for a year of WVN Townsville branch. These women have changed aspects of my life that I thought would never be the same. I have shared my story with them for the first time, and I felt safe. I no longer feel alone in my experiences of Vietnam. I feel valued. I still have PTSD and that will always be. WVN Townsville branch have lifted my spirits and I feel part of their family.

I look forward to each monthly catch up. I come away refreshed in mind and spirit. Knowing WVNA will continue to support me and so many other women who have served.

Pam Barlow

Vietnam Veteran

WVNA complements existing Ex-Service Organisations (ESO) by providing an opportunity to connect with other women veterans to give and receive advice and therefore progress the role of women in ESOs. It is a means of sharing experiences and advice on veteran issues specific to women and a voice for informing ESOs of the common issues. Importantly it is a safe place for women veterans who have experienced sexual assault or harassment in the ADF.

Colleen Swifte

Former Army

When I got medically discharged from 12 years of service I was a bit jaded on how the army treated me during my last year of service and did not want to talk about army or be engaged in army organisations. I somehow saw the WVNA Facebook site but it took 6 months to come to a meeting and thankfully I did as I have felt welcomed and not judged and empowered with the girls and the direction in which the network is going. I feel more comfortable accessing more services and organisations knowing we are all behind each other and there is someone there to lend an ear.

Amy Babbage

Former Army Medic

I felt lost and alone, with no idea why. Like many others, I suffer from depression and PTSD. I was invited to join WVNA in its infancy, but I was terrified and I only did it because a friend asked me to. I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made to my life. I now seek out women who might be interested and helped by our group. I’m now mixing with other people, including RSL’s, Vietnam Veterans and DVA trying to find what where and how to further the cause.

Maxie Schofield

Former Army Medic