Family photo

Interview with Australian Defence Family member Charlie Dyce-McGowan

Charlie didn’t know a huge amount about Defence life, until she met Nick who is in the Royal Australian Airforce. After a whirlwind romance, the pair married and began their adventures together. 22 years on, Charlie reflects on their married life and the highs and lows of marrying into Defence.

How did you meet Nick?

I met Nick completely by chance one Valentine’s Day. I‘d just moved back home to Sale following a serious injury. Nick was posted to East Sale as an instructor at the School of Air Traffic Control at the time. It felt like kismet when we met – I was out with friends and we just met by complete chance. Nick turned to his friend and said; “I’m going to marry this girl!”

It was like we already knew each other. It just went from there, we had a whirlwind romance, we moved into together soon after we met and within that year Nick, who works in the Royal Australian Defence Force, was posted to Jervis Bay and so we moved to beautiful Jervis Bay. That was the start of our travels and Defence life together.

When you met Nick what did you know about Defence life?

I didn’t know all that much about Defence. You don’t always realise when you marry into Defence what it’s like. Defence is a whole lifestyle like no other – it comes with challenges but also lots of opportunity. People in Defence make huge sacrifices, but they also gain a lot – there’s the whole Defence community, we’ve travelled, had lots of fun and made lifelong friends.

What are some of the challenges of being married to someone in the RAAF?

We have moved around a lot and after a while you do start to long to stay in one home. With each posting and each move you have to start again with everything. New house, getting set up, finding a Doctor, Dentist, getting a new job, making new friends. If you’re a Defence partner, you often have to make sacrifices with your career. Sometimes employers won’t take you on because they see on your resume you’ve moved around a lot, or when they realise that you’re a Defence spouse.

How many house moves have you had?

We counted them up the other day and realised we’ve had 14 postings and 17 house moves so far.

What has helped you to overcome any challenges over the years?

We have friends all over Australia that we can easily pick up with again, even after not seeing them for years. Defence friends are like family, we call them “framily”. If you’re in Defence you just get it – you understand the lifestyle and no matter what happens you’re there for each other. If your husband or partner is on deployment it can get lonely, but there’s a real sense of camaraderie and other Defence Families understand. We support each other.

What have been the highlights of your Defence life so far?

I’m lucky that I’m quite nomadic, so I enjoy changing locations. Defence life hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been fun. We’ve had so many adventures together and lived in some beautiful places in Australia. I’m a real people person so I love meeting new people and making new friends. Defence life comes with a lot of new opportunities. I’ve had a varied career- I love working in Defence support roles.

What has been your favourite posting?

My favourite posting was RAAF Williamtown. We love Nelson Bay and plan to retire there. My most rewarding posting was RAAF East Sale. I loved my role there as the Coordinator of the East Sale Family Group on the RAAF base there. We really did a lot there – building a strong community with lots of social connections and activities.

What do you like most about working for Soldier On?

I really like working in a support role giving back to Defence – having lived with a husband with PTSD and having that lived experience of PTSD, I’m very understanding of what we want to achieve at Soldier On. I really want to help Defence families, so it’s great to have a job supporting Defence families.

New Horizons

Today Charlie is enjoying working as a member of the Pathways team at Soldier On helping Defence families with employment and education support.

Soldier On enables veterans and their families to thrive with a holistic approach to support for the whole Defence family which includes psychological support, health and wellbeing programs, employment and education support and social activities.

Nick’s RAAF career continues to move forward – he will be transitioning later this year into his new role of Director Strategic Airspace Management and Airbase Operations as a Group Captain.

Interview by Cassandra Zoro.

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