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Embracing Change as a Family

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Gillian Cosgrove-White and her partner Rachael first met when they were 20 years old but they lost touch when Gillian moved to Tasmania and Rachael joined the Royal Australian Navy. 

Fast forward some 13 years. The couple reconnected on social media, got married and are raising three children together, including twenty-year-old Corban from Gillian’s first marriage. 

With a young family, which now includes four-year-old Kaitlyn and two-year-old Sophie, and a partner often away on duty, Gillian made the decision to stay at home so she can look after the children and concentrate on studying a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in sociology. 

“My main focus is making sure our kids know that while one mum goes away for work sometimes, they also have one mum at home,” Gillian said. 

“I chose to study my degree online, as it’s easier to juggle children and the potential change that comes with being a Defence family. 

“I hope that this gives them some stability in what can be a pretty up and down life.” 

And that stability has been critically important when it comes to Corban. 

“Corban started to change when there were real puberty, high school and peer pressures,” Gillian said. 

“Our toughest time as a family was when he came to us to get help with his female-to-male transition.” 

The family sought support from a number of organisations including Open Arms—Veterans and Families Counselling, who helped them gain some of the tools they needed. 

“Talking and being open and transparent with our situation has helped to reduce the overall stressors as we were able to discuss and see all the options available to us,” said Gillian. 

“For us as a family, Corban’s transition taught us not only to stand together as a family but to focus on what is important in life.” 

Housing has been a challenge for the family as they want to ensure they live in a community that is inclusive, embraces diversity and is located close to specialist treatment centres. 

“We have relocated a couple of times and each time we have made early contact with Defence Housing Australia to start the search for housing that would support Corban through his medical and psychological needs,” said Gillian. 

Using the resources available helped keep the couple close and gave Rachael the right information to get the appropriate help and support from her Command. They were also able to access free, all-hours support specifically for ADF families. 

While being a Defence family presents many opportunities and challenges, the family embraces the position they are in to experience areas of life that not many people get to do. 

“Rachael is always saying that I am the best at understanding how this crazy world of Defence works and she wouldn’t be as successful if it was not for my support and love,” said Gillian. 

“Although, I believe that I am simply supporting my wife and being a good mum and a good wife to another good mum and wife. 

“Defence life is a unique experience and we feel a great sense of support and belonging.”

This article was written by Jocelin Kelly and reported in the Defence Family Matters Magazine published by the Defence Community Organisation. You can read the full version at http://www.defence.gov.au/DCO/_Master/documents/DFM/DFM-Autumn-Winter-2019-final.pdf

12 June 2019

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