Case Studies, Design

Giving a voice to Defence Children

Defence Kidz book cover

Written by Hayley Boswell.

Recently, we launched our first graphic novel specifically designed for the children of defence personnel and veterans – Defence Kidz: Operation Snakebite Cove. This initiative is particularly special because both the writers and illustrators are members of defence families. They bring authenticity and a deep understanding of the unique experiences these children face.

Children of defence personnel encounter a set of challenges that are distinct from their peers. Frequent relocations, extended periods of separation from a parent, and the anxiety of having a loved one in potentially dangerous situations are everyday realities for these kids. Traditional children’s content often doesn’t address these specific circumstances, leaving defence children feeling isolated or misunderstood. The goal of the new Defence Kidz graphic novel is to bridge this gap by reflecting their real-life experiences, providing a sense of recognition and validation.

Growing up in a military family can instil resilience, adaptability, and a strong sense of duty in children. However, these traits often come through challenging situations. Stories that mirror their lives can offer valuable lessons on coping mechanisms and emotional strength. When children see characters navigating similar hardships and emerging stronger, it provides them with models of resilience and perseverance.

With the Defence Kidz graphic novel series, we hope to foster a sense of community among defence children. Knowing that other kids share their experiences can significantly reduce feelings of isolation. The aim of Defence Kidz is to connect children with shared backgrounds, helping them realise they are part of a larger, supportive network.

Mental health and emotional well-being are critical, especially for children who might face stress and uncertainty due to their parents’ military service. Authentic stories can serve as a therapeutic tool, allowing children to process their emotions and experiences in a safe and relatable context. By seeing their lives reflected in the narrative, they gain a better understanding of their own feelings and how to articulate them.

Defence Kidz: Operation Snakebite Cove can also serve as a conversation starter within families. Parents can use the stories as a way to discuss the complexities of military life with their children. This open communication helps in nurturing a supportive family environment where children feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns.

Australia’s defence families are diverse, and their stories are rich with different cultural, geographical, and personal backgrounds. By involving defence family members in the process of creating our graphic novel, we’ve made sure that Defence Kidz: Operation Snakebite Cove is an authentic portrayal of their journey.

Defence Kidz Founder, Hayley Boswell, is a Veteran Spouse. She has been appointed to the SA Governments Veterans Advisory Council to advise SA Ministers on Veteran family issues.

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