Gwen Cherne, Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner

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Gwen Cherne, Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner

Gwen Cherne was appointed as the inaugural Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner on the Repatriation Commission on 6 August 2020. On 2 March 2021, she was appointed a member of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission.

Gwen is committed to representing the perspectives of veteran families in ongoing policy and decision-making across Government. As a single mother with two young children at home, and having lost her husband to suicide, Gwen is acutely aware of some of the challenges that Defence families face.

“I am proud to be the Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner and to be charged with ensuring the voice of veterans’ families are heard,’ Gwen says. “As the widow and mother of veterans I am very passionate about this work and the important role that families play in Australia’s veteran support system. There is so much we can, and should, learn from families and I will make sure we do.”

Gwen spent three years in and out of Afghanistan doing stabilisation and reconstruction work. She is an Australian war widow from suicide, the mother of a currently serving member of the Australian Defence Force and a daughter of a Vietnam veteran who suffered PTSD and moral injury. She has lived experience of military family life, mental health issues and recovery, family and domestic violence and intimate partner violence. She is dedicated to promoting hope and healing through co-designed and co-implemented solutions.

Since the death of her husband to suicide in 2017 she has dedicated herself to advocacy for Australian war widows, Defence and veteran families, suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

Gwen was appointed to the Council of the Australian War Memorial in 2019, was an inaugural Member of the Council for Women and Families United by Defence Service, served on the board of the Australian War Widow’ NSW chapter, was an Ambassador for the Commando Welfare Trust and Gotcha4Life and was a 2018 Invictus Games Ambassador for ClubsNSW.

Born in the United States, her career has taken her all around the world, including Afghanistan, Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, with a focus on stability, relief, and development for youth, women, and families living in crisis and extreme poverty.

In her early career, she co-founded a school for low-income children in Brooklyn, NY. She worked in Afghanistan as an international development worker in the Central and South Regions and as Regional Director in Jalalabad and Kabul. After returning to the US, Gwen worked as a Senior Trainer and Manager for Curriculum and Training for military, Foreign Service Officers and other civilians preparing for deployment.

More recently, she spent seven years working at the Australian Civil-Military Centre as a Program Manager and Assistant Director for Research.

Gwen has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies and a Masters degree in Public Administration with a concentration in International Policy from the NYU Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.

Her role complements the work of the Repatriation Commissioner and the Defence Engagement Commissioner by representing the perspectives of veteran families – contributing to the collective understanding of the risk and factors relating to the wellbeing of veterans and their families to inform Government policy.

As a member of the Repatriation Commission, Gwen is independent of DVA. 

Contact the Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner: VFA [at]

To learn more about Gwen and her work as the Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner please see: Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner – Gwen Cherne.

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