The informal event was an opportunity for Their Excellencies and Mrs Hurley to acknowledge and thank them to thank both the veterans for their service and the families who support them.
‘Linda and I are very aware of the vital role that families play in supporting the men and women of the Australian Defence Force – both during and after their time in uniform,’ the Governor-General said. ‘In the lead-up to Anzac Day, and as we reflect on how the service of our modern veterans has added to the Anzac legacy, we have been delighted to be able to reach out and connect with veterans and their families.’
For those attending, it was a chance to reconnect with one another following a challenging year. It was also an opportunity to recognise veteran families and their important role in our veteran community.
‘The foundation of the veteran community is our veterans and their families,’ said veteran attendee Richard McIlvaney. ‘A lot of veterans do suffer in some way, with the elements they bring home with them. Events like this, where we can recognise the support that their families provide, are so important.’
The expansive, manicured grounds of Government House were a perfecting setting for the event, which included an outdoors barbecue and activities such as cricket set up for the almost 20 children present.
Oscar Comandari (pictured below with his wife and three children) echoed Richard’s thoughts. ‘It’s so important to involve families in events like this. My wife, who also served, had our first daughter at home and was studying whilst I was deployed. At the time I don’t think I appreciated it enough. However, now I look back and realise I wouldn’t be where I am today without her – having my back and holding down the fort at home.’
Dallas Hodgetts, formerly of the 2nd Commando Regiment, attended the event with his wife and daughter, first met the Governor-General when his community in Batesman Bay was badly affected by the 2020 Bushfires.
He too said how glad he was to see partners and children highlighted throughout the event. ‘Just before we came home [from deployment] we were told to be aware that life has gone on while you were away. Our families go through so much, and it’s so important they receive acknowledgement.’ He also commented on the importance of Gwen Cherne’s appointment as Veteran Family Advocate. ‘It’s so great to see the work she is doing for veteran families. They often have fantastic ideas and insights, and it’s important that they’re heard.’
In August 2020, Ms Gwen Cherne was appointed as the first ever Veteran Family Advocate. A member of the Repatriation Commission, Commissioner Cherne feeds the perspectives of veteran families into ongoing policy and decision making across government.