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Military spouses find friendship through craft at Greensborough Salvos

Craft and games at Greensborough Salvos have enabled military spouses to build new friendships and find support in challenging times and seasons.

By KIRRALEE NICOLLE

When Keira McDougall first encountered a ConnectiviTEA group during her husband’s posting to Edinburgh Army Base in South Australia, she was in a season of change and loss of connection. She had just ended her role in the Australian Army. She no longer had all her close Army colleagues or family nearby.

She says once she had a child and her spouse needed to relocate to Simpson Barracks in Victoria, her needs changed again.


“Being a defence spouse can be isolating, and not having the usual support networks such as long-time friends and family around means you don’t often have the support you require, especially at short notice,” Keira said. “[I was] looking for another support network for those last-minute babysitting needs or if you need someone to feed your pet so you can go away for the weekend. We don't have those luxuries without our family [around].”


Keira McDougall (front left) with Major Gai Cathcart (second from left) and other Salvation Army and defence personnel at the ConnectiviTEA launch.

This experience, as well as her friendship with Major Gai Cathcart from Red Shield Defence Services in South Australia who runs the ConnectiviTEA program at RAAF Base Edinburgh, prompted her to begin a similar group at Greensborough Corps near Simpson Barracks.


The group now meets fortnightly, with the support Captains Alison and Gareth MacDonald, Greensborough Corps Officers. Keira said the involvement of The Salvation Army was valuable as it offered a broader sense of community outside the defence force. She also said Salvation Army officers faced similar struggles to defence personnel with regular moves and distance from family.


Keira said that, while the military offered its own community centre programs, it was nice to be provided with an alternative away from base where the attendees had no responsibilities and could simply show up and have a cuppa and chat while playing a game or doing some craft. She said the saying ‘one size fits all’ did not apply when talking about people’s needs, and if someone feels they are not having their needs met in one environment they shouldn’t feel they have nowhere to go.


Upcoming ConnectiviTEA events.

Many military spouses at the Greensborough ConnectiviTEA group had been part of the groups on base and found the chance to build community connections away from base refreshing, Keira shared.


She added that ConnectiviTEA felt very relaxed and like a place where people could feel safe. The group alternated between games nights and craft, and there were no expectations that attendees would join a committee or need to fulfil obligations. Keira also shared that she and some recent members had alternated having dinner at each other’s houses to lessen the work of cooking meals every night while their spouse was away.


“For me, being able to provide this opportunity here in Melbourne with the support of Greensborough Salvation Army and Major Gai is a privilege, and I hope the spirit of ConnectiviTEA can continue here and we can be that second family for defence families.”



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