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The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC


14 December 2018

Council for Women and Families United by Defence Service

A new council for women and families is set to provide direct policy advice to the Federal Government.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester today launched the Council for Women and Families United by Defence Service, and said it would provide a forum for women and families to have a direct voice into his office on issues for Defence Members and families.

“Our Government is committed to putting veterans and their families first and it is important that we know what impact defence service has on these groups and they are represented by a united voice,” Mr Chester said.

“Service within the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has impacts beyond the serving member – families are the primary support network for members through their ADF service and beyond.

“The women who wear our nation’s uniform, are also mothers, partners, sisters and daughters. This brings with it its own set of unique challenges.”

The Council will comprise representatives from across Australia, and reflect the broadest definition of ‘family’. Mrs Rhondda Vanzella OAM, current President of the NSW War Widows’ Guild will act as interim chair, while the council is established.

Mrs Vanzella will be joined by a broad range of members including female veterans, partners, mothers, extended family, and widows. It will include Gwen Cherne, a widow and also a member of the NSW War Widows’ Guild who attended the launch.

“I am delighted to be a part of this Council,” Ms Cherne said.

“Something I feel very passionate about is ensuring that women and families, who in some way have a connection to our defence force, are supported and that the government hears our voices.”

Mr Chester said the Council will work closely with other stakeholders, from ex-service organisations to individuals with an interest in the matters it is advocating for, and then to advise the Government.

“The Council goes further than traditional advisory bodies, investigating matters of concern and developing cohesive solutions with Government for the benefit of all women and families affected by Defence service,” Mr Chester said.

“The Council will meet regularly throughout the year and will provide informed advice to Government, drive coherent policy outcomes and advocate on behalf of women and families united by defence service.”

The first meeting of the Council will take place in early 2019. Full membership details are being finalised.



Whil Prendergast: 02 6277 7820
DVA Media: 02 6289 6466
Office of the Hon. Darren Chester, Canberra ACT

Open Arms — Veterans and Families Counselling provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 8 8241 4546) or visit