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Timor-Leste Family Study

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The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, officially launched the Timor-Leste Family Study Report on Thursday 20 September 2012 at Parliament House.

The study investigated the effects on the health and wellbeing of the families of Australian Defence Force members who were deployed to Timor-Leste.

Key findings from the study showed partners of ADF members who had stronger support networks, either through family, community or co-workers, reported better mental health, lower psychological distress and fewer behavioural issues with their children.

Military service was found to have negative consequences for some families.  If the ADF member had poor mental health, their partner was more likely to also report having poor mental health. This in turn had negative consequences for affected children. 

The Timor-Leste Family Study Technical and Summary Reports are available here:

Background to the Timor-Leste Family Study 

The Timor-Leste Family Study researched the impacts of deployment on the families of current and ex-members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) who either:

  • deployed to Timor-Leste; or
  • were eligible to deploy to Timor-Leste but did not.

These members may have also deployed on other operations.

The Timor-Leste Family Study started in 2009 with the engagement of an independent research consortium including UniQuest and the Centre for Military and Veterans’ Health (CMVH). The research team was selected from the Family Study Program Research Panel.

The Timor-Leste Family Study reviewed the outcomes of relevant research such as the Deployment Health Surveillance Program’s East Timor Health Study and the 2008 Australian Defence Force Families Survey.

A Consultative Forum has been established to provide a participant perspective on the study.

The study was supported by the same Independent Scientific Adviser and Scientific Advisory Committee as the Vietnam Veterans’ Family Study.

Focus groups were conducted to inform the design of the survey questionnaires that will be sent to participants. A summary of these focus groups is available here

The study questionnaire was piloted before being sent to all invited ADF members and their partners in May and June 2011.

For more information on the Timor-Leste Family Study, contact DVA’s Health Study Line toll free on 1800 502 302 or by emailing health.study@dva.gov.au.

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Independent Scientific Adviser and Scientific Advisory Committee

Independent Scientific Adviser (ISA)

Professor Bryan Rodgers is the ISA for both the Timor-Leste Family Study and the Vietnam Veterans’ Family Study. Professor Rodgers is currently the Professor of Family Health and Wellbeing, Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, at the Australian National University. Professor Rodgers has an established research career evidenced by around 180 peer-reviewed publications, a track record of research translation into policy and practice and has served on several scientific advisory committees and external reference groups for research programs.

His research interests include:

  • Childhood adversity and adult mental health,
  • Long-term results of parental divorce,
  • Family relationships and mental health,
  • Relationships of alcohol consumption with anxiety, depression and cognitive function,
  • Models of vulnerability and resilience,
  • Epidemiology of mental disorders over the life course, and
  • Mental health literacy.

ISA Role

The ISA ensures that each research component of the study is undertaken in a sound scientific manner. The ISA is a member of both the Scientific Advisory Committee and the Consultative Forum (CF).  The ISA provides regular reports to the CF, in plain language, on matters discussed at Scientific Advisory Committee meetings.

Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC)

Members of the SAC have a background in intergenerational research and family studies. As well as the ISA, the SAC members are:

  • Professor Ilan Katz (Social Policy Research Unit, University of New South Wales),
  • Professor Michael Sawyer (University of Adelaide)
  • Dr Paul Jelfs (Australian Bureau of Statistics),
  • Dr Lyndall Strazdins (Australian National University), and
  • Professor Elizabeth Waters (University of Melbourne).

SAC Role

The SAC provides advice on scientific matters related to the conduct of the study. The SAC reports to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).

The SAC also:

  • Assists DVA and the research organisations in aligning research to the study’s methodology,
  • Monitors progress of the study from a scientific viewpoint,
  • Provides regular reports to the Consultative Forum through the Independent Scientific Adviser, and
  • Reviews the research for accuracy and validity.

After the study is complete, the SAC will be asked to endorse a draft of the final report which will be presented to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs after due consideration by the Repatriation Commission.

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Consultative Forum

The Consultative Forum for the Timor-Leste Family Study is made up of people who have been nominated by Defence and ex-service organisations to represent the interests of participant groups in the study. This includes Defence Families Australia, the Defence Community Organisation, the Australian Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Veterans’ Association and the Returned and Services League of Australia.

Consultative Forum Membership

  • Major General M.A. Kelly, AO, DSC – Chair – Repatriation Commissioner,
  • Ms Julie Blackburn – Defence Families Australia
  • Mr Mike Callan – Defence Community Organisation
  • Mr Geoffrey Hazel APM JP – RSL Representative
  • LTCOL Stephanie Hodson PhD – Department of Defence, and
  • Mr David Penson CSM – Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans’ Association. 

The members of the Consultative Forum provide comment to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on issues in relation to the study and consult with their organisations/constituents to ensure the service and ex-service communities perspective is provided on the study.  The CF acts as the conduit between the service and ex-service community, the Scientific Advisory Committee and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The Terms of Reference outline the role of the Consultative Forum and its members. The Consultative Forum is chaired by the Repatriation Commissioner, Major General M.A. Kelly, AO, DSC.  The Department of Veterans’ Affairs provides secretariat services to the Consultative Forum.

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Timor-Leste Family Study Consultative Forum Terms of Reference

Note:  For the purposes of this Consultative Forum, ‘the defence community’ includes former Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and their wives, partners (including ex-partners), children, step-children, siblings, nieces and nephews.

Role of the Consultative Forum

The Consultative Forum is a group representing participant groups in the study.  The members of the Consultative Forum will provide comment to the Department on serving member and defence community issues in relation to the study and consult with their organisations/constituents on those issues. The Consultative Forum is chaired by the Repatriation Commissioner, Major General M.A. Kelly, AO, DSC.

The Consultative Forum will:

  • consult a minimum of three times per year and as required, dependent on research and consultative needs;
  • act as a mechanism for consultation between the appointed research organisation (Centre for Military and Veterans’ Health - CMVH), DVA, the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and the defence serving member and broader defence communities about issues relating to the study;
  • facilitate communication between serving members and the defence community, and DVA on issues relating to the study;
  • represent defence serving member and serving member community interests and provide views and information, from their perspective, on issues relating to the Timor-Leste Family Study;
  • receive regular reports from the SAC through the Independent Scientific Adviser (ISA);
  • provide comment on defence serving member and defence community issues relating to the study in light of information provided by the SAC; and
  • observe progress of the study, through the Consultative Forum, and report back to the serving member and defence communities.

Members of the Consultative Forum are expected to:

  • provide comment to the Department on serving member and defence community issues in relation to the study;
  • consult as appropriate and necessary with their organisations /constituents on those issues;
  • monitor progress of the study and report back to those they represent;
  • read, consider and comment on material put to the Forum, including agenda papers, minutes and other documents;
  • represent serving member and defence community interests during the implementation of the Timor-Leste Family Study;
  • receive regular reports from the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) through the Independent Scientific Adviser (ISA);
  • provide comment on reports on the research including the draft of the final report;
  • protect the privacy of all individuals involved in the study and protect any commercial-in-confidence aspects of the study e.g, methodologies taken up by contracted researchers;
  • maintain appropriate confidentiality about dealings between the Minister and the Consultative Forum, and the SAC and the Consultative Forum;
  • act in good faith and appropriately towards other Forum members; and
  • treat any sensitive material encountered in an appropriate manner.

The Chairperson for the Consultative Forum will:

  • facilitate the Forum meetings;
  • ensure that all members are provided with the opportunity for full participation during the meetings, that all relevant matters are discussed and that effective decisions are made, recorded and actioned;
  • set the tone of the Forum including the establishment of a common purpose and ensure that a consensus is reached when making decisions;
  • promote constructive and respectful interaction between Forum members and other stakeholders;
  • facilitate the equal and effective contribution of all Forum members to ensure that the views of their respective organisations are presented and discussed;
  • lead and be involved in reviewing the Forum’s performance as well as identifying and managing the process for appointment of new members and renewal of existing members if required;
  • ensure that all Forum members receive appropriate documents and/or briefings on issues related to the study;
  • be responsible for ensuring that each meeting is planned effectively, conducted according to the Terms of Reference and any Governance Rules and that matters are dealt with in an orderly and efficient manner; and
  • manage the agenda for each meeting to ensure all matters are discussed in the allotted time.

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Contact

The Timor-Leste Family Study is being administered and funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The research itself is being carried out by the Centre for Military and Veterans’ Affairs (CMVH).  CMVH is an independent research organisation specialising in research regarding military and veterans’ health.

Contact the DVA Family Study Program

DVA's Health Study Line: 1800 502 302

Postal address:

Family Study Program
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
GPO Box 9998
CANBERRA  ACT   2601

Email: healthstudy@dva.gov.au

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