Family Wellbeing Study Part 2

Military family approaches to managing transition to civilian life

Content type
Commissioned report

October 2018

Commissioning Body

Department of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs


The Family Wellbeing Study examined the wellbeing of families of ADF members, transitioned ADF members and reservists. Part 2 of the study contains the results of the qualitative research component. This part of the study was designed to investigate how families manage the transition of Australian Defence Force (ADF) members into civilian life. In particular, the study aimed to explore family strategies and approaches for achieving their transition goals or managing post-transition life.

The qualitative research was based on analysis of data from semi-structured qualitative interviews with 25 adult family members (including partners, parents and children over 18) of ex-serving ADF members. Interviews were undertaken between March and July 2017. Participants were drawn from a sampling frame of people who had completed the online survey component for Part 1 of the Family Wellbeing Study, and who had a family member who was an ex-serving member of the ADF.

About the Family Wellbeing Study

The Family Wellbeing Study was commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Defence and Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The study examined the wellbeing of families of ADF members, transitioned ADF members and reservists. Its aim is to improve services for ADF families by informing effective prevention and early intervention programs, both while the ADF member is serving and after they join civilian life.

The study was part of the Transition and Wellbeing Research Programme, the largest and most comprehensive programme of studies undertaken in Australia to examine the impact of military service on the mental, physical and social health of serving and ex-serving ADF members and their families.

The study produced three reports:

Part 2 – Military Family Approaches to Managing Transition to Civilian Life – was a qualitative study. It used insights gained during semi-structured telephone interviews to investigate the support military families give ADF members before, during and after their exit from service, and ways in which families themselves can be better supported.

While the study yielded a generally positive picture, it also identified that families of current and ex-serving ADF members did face challenges, and may benefit from targeted support and assistance.

Key messages

  • Families were the main source of support for transitioning and transitioned ADF members and were severely affected when transition did not go well.

  • Family members commonly played a key role in transition planning, organising the family’s post transition life and providing emotional support to transitioning ADF members.

  • Families were an especially important source of emotional and practical support for transitioned ADF members with mental health issues and/or who had been medically discharged from the ADF.

  • There was no single type of ‘successful’ transition for ADF members or their families. Family assessments of the relative success of transition varied according to life circumstances, family expectations and the passing of time.

  • Early and thorough transition planning, and sustained family involvement in that planning, were the most commonly cited strategies for achieving a good transition or for improving a difficult one.

  • There was an expressed desire for more individualised transition preparation and better communication with families. The families of transitioned ADF members with complex needs indicated a particular desire for personalised transition case management or case coordination.

  • Participants were often unsure of what services were available to them or to transitioned ADF members. More effective and timely communication with families could help equip transitioned members and their families with the tools to help them manage their post-transition lives.