Wagga’s military spouses and children to benefit from funding boost

No one understands army wives like army wives, according to Natalie Bourke. 

She said moving to Wagga – or anywhere in the country – could be daunting for the children, husbands and wives of military men and women. 

It is an experience the defence-force mum said was all too familiar. 

It is the reason close to $50,000 was this week earmarked for Kapooka and RAAF Base Wagga. 

The federal government on Wednesday announced $25,350 would go into the development of Kapooka Neighbourhood House, and a further $20,500 would assist in the establishment of a RAAF, Army, Navy Community House (RANCH) at Wagga’s Air Force base.

Mrs Bourke said thousands of military family members would benefit as a result. 

“It is difficult having to uproot all the time,” Mrs Bourke said.

“People use neighbourhood house and the ranch because they don’t have anyone to turn to.”

The wife of a Kapooka soldier, Mrs Bourke said she was fortunate to have an outgoing personality and found it somewhat effortless to transition into a new community. 

But she said it was not always the case for some men, women and children. 

“Neighbourhood House is really good for people that struggle to put themselves out there,” she said. 

“It’s such a good way to meet people and you meet all sorts of people.

“The women that run it are fantastic … they all know where to go and where to send you so you can get what you need.” 

With more than 2500 permanent and part-time Australian Defence Force members, Riverina MP Michael McCormack said there were a lot of spouses and children who would benefit from the improved facilities. 

Mr McCormack – the Veterans’ Affairs MP, Defence Personnel MP and the MP Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC – said the Neighbourhood House and RANCH helped defence families better engage with their communities.

Living an often transient life, he said defence spouses could often have difficulty finding work when they moved to new areas. 

“At the end of the day we need to support them as much as possible,” Mr McCormack said. 

“Some men and women come here with tremendous skills.” 

He said the funding would help promote growth and resilience among these groups, with targeted programs to help them “fit in”.

“Defence families can sometimes struggle to adapt to a new environment,” Mr McCormack said.

“This is where dedicated groups such as Kapooka Neighbourhood House and RANCH … can create opportunities for these families to form new friendships and share stories unique to the demands of military life.”