Even before I joined the Navy, I was used to moving town every few years because I was a ‘railway child’ in country Victoria. Like Defence families, railway families moved where the job took them, and they experienced similar relocation issues and similar standards of housing and related benefits.
I am the oldest of four children and from a young age I remember helping with the packing process. Each time we moved we had to take up the carpet and lino, roll it up and put it in the railway truck for the next place. You could bet if we had a large rectangular lounge room in one place, then the next place would be a square room, so the carpet had to be trimmed to fit: and of course the next lounge room would be a different shape again. We always seemed to have an edge of bare boards around the ever decreasing piece of carpet. If one house had a long central passageway you could also bet that the next one would be much shorter, requiring the carpet runner to be shortened.
The process of laying carpet and lino in the new place was the same each time: first you took up all the tacks from the previous ten occupants, put down layers of newspaper and then the floor covering could be tacked in place. Only when this was done could the furniture come into the room. There was always a discussion between Mum and Dad on which way round the lino or carpet would go so the bed marks from last time would not be in the middle of the floor this time, and ‘would it be better to use the carpet from the lounge in the bedroom this time’. Meanwhile, our belongings were piled on the veranda and we hoped it wouldn’t rain. When we moved out, the floor coverings were taken up, always to the accompaniment of Mum reading out interesting snippets from the newspapers we had put down several years before when we moved in.
The curtains and blinds had to be provided by the occupants and again they would vary immensely in size, shape and number. Luckily Mum sewed so she was able to adjust them each time by making huge tucks in some and then letting them down next time. The curtain rails had to be attached to the wall by screws, so over the years, a number of tenants screwing and unscrewing into the same spot meant eventually there was very little wood to attach them to.
The kitchen equipment provided normally consisted of a wood stove and a sink; cupboards were generally provided by the occupant, so Dad had to mount some on the wall before Mum could unpack into them. We also had a large pantry cupboard that moved with us.
When we packed we also had to provide our own packing boxes. We carted a couple of tea chests and a metal trunk around the country from place to place, but most of our belongings were moved in boxes scrounged from the local supermarket. All the glasses and plates had to be individually wrapped in newspaper, so we saved these for months before the move.
Dad always had to clean the water tanks when we arrived as this usually hadn’t been done for years and for most places this was our only drinking water. He couldn’t clean them all out at once or we would have had no water until the first rain, so the water had to be boiled until they were all cleaned out. There was always a great tapping of tank rungs with a broom to check the water level after a fall and it was only after several good falls that we knew we had enough for normal usage so we could have a bath with more than two inches of water in it.
Our only heating and cooking fuel was wood. I learnt to cook on a wood stove and it wasn’t until we moved to Melbourne in 1976 that I leant to use an electric stove. When we moved into a new house, Dad would always have to go into the bush to get some wood as the woodpile was usually minimal. We loved the trips to the bush—but it was hard work cutting and moving the wood, especially if we moved in the middle of summer. We could have bought it from the local wood merchant, but the stuff we got ourselves was always much better quality.
One place we moved into didn’t have any light globes, as the previous occupant, or someone in the town, had taken them. Another place had a long wooden passageway through which my brother partly disappeared; the boards had been eaten out by white ants. Another place was in a dreadfully dirty and neglected state but we had no alternative but to move in: seven months pregnant Mum, Dad and three children under five.
Dad was a veggie gardener, so a priority was to set up the veggie patch as soon as we arrived. Mum was the flower gardener, but that was the second priority. We always left the house and garden in a better state than it was when we arrived.
After all this moving you would think I would have picked a career with some stability. But no, I joined the Navy in 1981 and have since lost count of how many moves I have done around the country. I was pleasantly surprised how much easier a removal now was compared to the moves of my childhood. When I moved back into my own home in Canberra a few years back, Mum came up from Melbourne to help me. She couldn’t believe how easy it all was and we started to talk about the ‘good’ old railway days.
Removals can still be stressful, but looking back at how it used to be, I am so glad of the changes.
Group Rent Scheme updated
For this year’s update of the Group Rent Scheme (GRS), the Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Force have agreed to implement a subsidy correction program to bring the Defence subsidy and member contributions to 50 per cent each.
Correcting the imbalance
Defence offers members an excellent Service package, with housing assistance one of its most attractive components. To ensure that the quality of housing can be maintained and improved, it is important that the costs are shared fairly between Defence and ADF members.
It is longstanding policy that Defence should subsidise 50 per cent of the national cost of housing for ADF members and their families. However, over a number of years, the percentage of housing subsidy Defence paid under the scheme has grown to a current rate of 56.5 per cent.
Because Defence is still subsidising more than the intended 50 per cent, one aim of the GRS adjustments is to achieve this 50 per cent target.
Rents paid by Defence are calculated from independently assessed market rents across Australia which are updated annually on 1 January. In the past, the resulting adjustment in the GRS was not passed on to members until October or November each year, with this lag contributing to the increase in the Defence subsidy.
This year’s contribution increase will take effect on 22 July 2010, with the change reflected in members’ Salary Variation Authorities on payday 5 August 2010. From next year, adjustments will be made during the March–April period.
The subsidy correction program does not apply to contributions for the lower-amenity housing GROUP A or Group 1A, as this housing is being phased out of service. Corporal (Equivalent) and below occupying a Group A Service Residence will pay at a lower rate than Rent Band 1, until this Group A housing is phased out by July 2017.
A subsidy correction factor has been added to the underlying rent growth to apply a 9 per cent increase to contributions to rent bands 1, 2 and 3. An exception is applied to Lieutenant (Equivalent), Second Lieutenant (Equivalent), Staff Sergeant (Equivalent) and Sergeant (Equivalent) in Rent Band 1, for whom a 8.46 per cent contribution increase will achieve the 50 per cent subsidy target.
Contributions for Rent Bands 4 [Colonel/Brigadier (Equivalent)] will be increased by 14.47 per cent and Rent Band 5 [Major General (Equivalent)] by 17.77 per cent in the 2010 update. These increases will move rent bands 4 and 5 to the required 50 per cent subsidy level.
This year’s GRS increase incorporates rises in the cost of rent for properties in the national rental market and moves to correct an imbalance in the subsidy Defence provides for housing.
The 2010 adjustment of contributions for living-in accommodation (LIA) will also take effect on 22 July 2010. A revaluation of LIA stock is conducted every three years by the Australian Valuation Office to ‘re-baseline’ the contribution rates, with contribution rates adjusted annually in the intervening years using an index created by the Australian Valuation Office. The 2008 revaluation of LIA stock was completed in 2009 with revised contributions brought into effect on 26 November 2009. The 2010 adjustment is therefore based on an index provided by the Australian Valuation office for the 18 month period 30 June 2008 to 31 December 2009. The indexed increase of 9 per cent brings contribution rates up to date with changes to market rents during this period. These changes will be reflected in members’ pay on 5 August 2010. The next LIA indexation adjustment is scheduled to occur at the same time as the annual GRS adjustment in March-April 2011. LIA contributions are not subject to the subsidy correction program.
Pay and conditions website
For more information, including the monetary changes per Group, see the Group Rent Scheme website.
The Reservist Handbook
By Deanna Nott
Helping Reservists maintain a good working relationship with their civilian employers is the focus of a new 34-page handbook.
The Reservist Handbook has been produced by Cadet, Reserve and Employer Support Division (CRESD) and aims to provide Reservists with information about their rights and responsibilities.
‘Reservists are increasingly providing their skills and expertise to maintain the Australian Defence Force’s capability,’ said the Head of CRESD Major General Greg Melick.
‘Naturally, this places additional pressures on their civilian employers. To help Reservists maintain a productive relationship with their civilian employers, CRESD has developed the Reservist Handbook.
‘The handbook covers a range of topics, including sections about the Employer Support Payment Scheme, Office of Reserve Service Protection, tips on how to liaise with your employer to arrange Defence leave and also information about the opportunities for your employer to personally experience life as a Reservist through Employer Engagement Activities.’
Reservists are encouraged to read and retain their copy of the handbook, which has been mailed to all Reservists who completed days in the 09/10 financial year. PMKeyS data was used for the mail out. The handbook can also be requested via their local Defence Reserves Support office by calling the following number.
For enquiries about the publication, or any of the services Defence Reserves Support provides, Reservists should talk to their liaison officer or refer to the Defence Reserves Support website.
Remember—update your details
Please ensure your PMKEYS data is accurate. Either log on to the Defence intranet or complete and lodge an AD150 ADF Personal Data - PMKEYS. Also remember to complete Form AD151 to update your civilian employer details.
Phone: 1800 803 485
Reviews and Submissions
A Long Way Home
By Charles Granquist
Published by Big Sky Publishing
Reviewed by Daria Sigma
In 1939, Charles Granquist lied about his age to sign up for the ‘adventure’ of World War II. But Charles’s war wasn’t to be the Boys’ Own derring-do that might have filled a young man’s dreams. For in 1941 he was taken by the German Navy as a prisoner of war, not to see freedom for another four years.
Granquist begins his tale—as they say—at the beginning. The first chapter is devoted to his life and family growing up in Blaxland. It’s hardly a life of luxury—the Depression is in full swing, and the young Charles grows up knowing all about Making Do. While hardly the same as being a Prisoner of War (POW), you can still see how this strength of character would serve him well in the years to come.
Certainly in the camps and stalags he comes to know more hardship than the Great Depression had shown him so far. Still, even with over six decades’ hindsight, it’s clear he knew how to keep his head in the darkest of times.
Charles also appears to bear no deep anger for those who kept him prisoner. For the most part, he seems to regard them as simply another fact of his bad situation. This doesn’t make him at all complacent about his fate. Several times he escapes his captivity, sometimes only briefly, sometimes for long enough to almost make it to liberty. Granquist’s writing style may take a few chapters to settle in, but it’s relating these ‘adventures’ that really shows his ability to tell his story. Even though this is clearly one of the hardest times in his life, he gives the impression that it’s a tale he’s comfortable to tell. That amongst the incarceration, evasion and gloom, there was also irony, friendship, humour and hope.
A Long Way Home, as the cover says, is one POW’s story. Other stories may be different—Charles even compares his situation to other prisoners’ as he contemplates his escape attempts. But while this might not give a complete impression of the life of every soldier taken as a prisoner of war, it tells an engaging story of one man and his attempts to achieve a goal that never leaves his mind—to return home.
GIVE-AWAY —dfm has three copies of A Long Way Home to give away to readers. To enter the draw email dfm with the subject of home and provide your address details. Draw closes on 1 August 2010.
Defending Australia—a soldier’s tale
Jenna Freeman is in Grade 10 at Albany Creek High School. This is her winning essay for the Pine River Returned Services League 2010 ANZAC essay contest.
The land of my birth is the dry wilderness of north Queensland. Here the sky stretches beyond the reach of a human eye. The sun burns the land far below, even in winter. The animals are tough, surviving searing summers and arid conditions. The people of the land love the wildness and toughness and the endless space that surrounds them. Their skin is ingrained with the dirt of the land as it mixes with the sweat of their labour.
Having enlisted into the Army and completed my Initial Training at Kapooka, moving to the city was a world that was unfamiliar and noisy. My view from my live-in accommodation on the army camp was of a dirty brick wall a few metres from my window. The sun was hidden for days at a time behind the smog of city life. My world felt closed around me. Gone was the endless summer sky and the world of bird song and crawling insects.
Called up for a tour of duty to Iraq, the need to visit my bush homeland tugged at my heart. A flying visit to see my parents on their bush property was wonderful as I recalled all the things I love so much about the bush. Picking up the dirt from the ground I rubbed it between my hands. I embraced the smell of its dryness and the feel of the rough grains between my fingers. My clothes were covered in the finer red dust that hung in the still air. It streaked my face as it settled on my face and neck. This was the soil of my homeland. The land that I loved and that lived in my heart.
From a Coalition Army Base in Kuwait I flew into Iraq in the middle of the night in the back of a Chinook helicopter. My ears strained to catch the sounds above the noise of the turning blades. I could hear explosions and my stomach lurched with every unfamiliar sound. There was silence from all of the soldiers sat in the back of the helicopter. We were deep in our thoughts of family and friends left so far behind. We were unsure of our fate and what would greet us once we landed. My heart thumped louder and faster than it had ever done before as I told myself to stay calm. This is the job that I had been trained to carry out. Sitting in the conference room back in the barracks at Brisbane, I had jumped at the chance to go on a tour of duty to Iraq to defend my country and its people. My heart had swelled with pride when I had learnt that my superiors were happy to allow me to go. Now however in the dark, cramped conditions, I could feel only fear, loneliness and desperation to escape.
As soon as the helicopter landed we were herded off into the darkness of the Iraq night. Weighed down with the unfamiliar body armour we headed for the waiting vehicles to take us to our destination. The helicopter lifted off as soon as the last soldier had climbed out. Seeing it head into the night sky and the noise of its engine growing fainter made me feel very alone and scared. Driving through the dark night the army vehicle reached speeds that I thought would have been impossible for an army vehicle to achieve. Above us rockets exploded as they were shot out of the night sky. It was like a fireworks display but of a very sinister and deadly kind.
My room at the British army compound was tiny. My bed reminded me of a coffin; a small space to lie down in with sand bags all around and above it to protect the sleeping occupant from serious injury or death from a rocket attack. I was fatigued from my flight but it was time to meet the colleagues that I would be working with. They had all been in Iraq for eight months and were happy to see the new soldiers arriving who would be replacing them. They were in high spirits as I introduced myself. My arrival signalled their departure back to their homeland in the next three to four weeks.
With the dawn came an unfamiliar sight before my eyes. The compound was large with buildings spread out all around it. Some of the buildings were ornate with arched doorways and high roofs. Army vehicles drove down the streets of the compound carrying soldiers to their place of work. As far as the eye could see was sand that swirled around you as you walked from one building to the next. The sun was hot and as I walked across the compound, I began to sweat under my body armour that I was wearing. Not a blade of grass or a tree was visible. Just an endless sea of coarse sand. Suddenly the sound of a siren started to wail. Frozen for a second on the spot my brain suddenly registered what to do as I saw my colleagues drop to the ground. The siren warned that a rocket had been launched and its target was the army compound. The sound of the large guns protecting the compound fired into action. Their job was to shoot the rocket out of the sky before it reached the compound. The sound of the guns firing for survival filled the air. I dropped to the ground, hoping and praying that if the rocket reached the compound and exploded the shrapnel would fly upwards and outwards missing the prone bodies lying in the sand. As I lay there in the coarse sand of Iraq I thought of my homeland and family so far away. The sand of Iraq stuck to my face as I lay as close to the ground as possible. I smelled its dryness and felt the coarseness of the grains. I did not want to die alone in this foreign land. This was not the soil of my homeland that stuck to my skin and trickled down the inside of my shirt. It did not have the familiar smell of the bushland that I had grown up in. Above me I could hear the intense loudness of gun fire and exploding rockets as I lay in the sand waiting for my rendezvous with destiny.
Left: Jenna Freeman receiving a certificate for her winning essay for the Pine River Returned Services League 2010 ANZAC essay contest