23 April 2024

Canberra woman goes into battle for partners, families of Defence personnel

| Sally Hopman
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Beck Rayner wearing shirt saying Spouses Support Spouses

Beck Rayner knows exactly what support is needed by women and men whose partners are in the Australian Defence Force – and she’s determined to help them. Photo: Supplied.

If anyone knows what it’s like to be the partner of someone in the military, it’s Beck Rayner.

She knows only too well what it’s like to arrive in a new town, knowing no-one. She also knows how it feels when your partner has been shipped off before you’ve even had time to unpack the moving boxes, or how you can feel isolated living in a crowded city.

As a military spouse for more than 20 years, Beck knows what women and men in her position face, every time they have to move.

“When you find other people who understand the realities of military life, it’s like air returning to your lungs after months or even years of holding your breath as a military spouse.”

That’s why she created the online support platform, Military Life – because “we are in this together”.

Although raised in Queanbeyan, she has moved more times than she can count since meeting her partner while he was studying at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. Since then, the two have maintained their careers – he in the military and she as a journalist and broadcaster.

The latest post has just brought Beck back to Canberra where she is settling in to a city she knows well. A city she believes is well placed to work with other military spouses who may be struggling – the ACT has the nation’s second highest population of Defence personnel.

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About 10 years ago, she founded Military Life, an online platform dedicated to providing guidance, information and connection for Defence partners and their families. Today, it boasts 85,000 downloads and her podcasts are in the top five per cent globally.

But back then, like many women and men today, she didn’t “fit in” with the people or places where they’d been posted. She set up the platform when she was living on the NSW South Coast because it didn’t take long to realise she wasn’t alone when it came to those feelings.

“No-one else was talking about how spouses felt, how they were feeling. That’s why I started it up.”

With a self-funded platform, she can act independently in her support for military spouses. This resulted in her subsequent appointment to the ACT Advisory Council for Veterans and their Families.

“Defence has a duty of care for its members, not for the families,” she says. “Yet the wellbeing of a family does impact on the wellbeing of the member.

“There is such a flow-on effect for both retention and recruitment, and we’re slowly getting there through advocacy with more of a focus on lived experiences – and I’m still living those experiences.”

Through Military Life, spouses and their families can connect with online communities including an information hub and dedicated Community Connector program.

Beck says the most rewarding aspect is to make a tangible difference in the lives of Defence partners and families.

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