The Council for Women and Families United by Defence Service

Last updated: 
3 December 2020

Service within the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has impacts beyond the serving member. Families are both the primary support network for members throughout ADF service and beyond, whilst also directly affected by the service of their loved ones. Women who wear our nation’s uniform, are mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. This can bring a unique set of challenges.

The Council for Women and Families United by Defence Service (the Council) was established in December 2018 to ensure the needs of women and families united by defence service are understood and visible, and their voices are heard. The Council brings these voices together to provide timely and comprehensive advice to Government on matters that involve or affect them, drive coherent policy outcomes and advocate on behalf of these women and families.

The Council is built on the foundations of contemporary lived experience, inclusivity, collaboration, compassion and respect. The members of the Council represent a broad cross-section of the veteran community and include, partners, widows, parents, current and ex-serving members and reservists and chaplaincy and all bring an interest and passion for supporting veterans and their families.

Nine advisors have been appointed to support the ongoing work of the Council.  The advisors were chosen following a thorough selection process, led by the Council Chair, Ms Gabby Costigan MBE.  

The advisors will share their expertise, developed while working in support of the women and families who have served our nation, to assist the Council in furthering its important work and providing effective and timely advice to Government.

The Council is currently focusing on a broad range of complex issues including ADF partner and spouse employment, family support and female veterans.

Council Members


  • Ms Gabby Costigan MBE

Deputy Chair

  • Ms Janine Kirk AM


  • Mr Michael Bainbridge
  • Dr Rachel Martin
  • Ms Anne Pahl
  • Ms Rachel Ranton
  • Squadron Leader Amanda Scott
  • The Venerable Robert Sutherland CSC
  • Mrs Rhondda Vanzella OAM
  • Ms Elizabeth Ward
  • Mrs Renee Wilson

Council Advisors

  • Ms Samantha Hodges
  • Dr Amy Johnson
  • Mrs Kate Martin
  • Ms Sharelle Mathias-Carman
  • Mrs Louise Pitcher
  • Dr Danielle Post
  • Mrs Donna Reggett
  • Dr Kerry Summerscales
  • Miss Penelope Twemlow