‘Family is everything’ – National Families Week

Living in Rockhampton, WA, with three children under six and a fiancé at sea, Kate Barry faces many daily challenges.

CAPTIONChief Petty Officer Joshua Scanlon, with his fiancé Kate Barry and their three children, Jonty, Leila and Tillie, enjoying a family holiday. Story by Lieutenant Marie Davies.

As a military partner, she recognises nothing is more important than family.

“Family is everything. Family is what you make it, and my support system when Josh is away is my created family,” Ms Barry said.

Her fiancé, Chief Petty Officer Joshua Scanlon, has served in the Navy for almost 15 years, and is a Combat Systems Supervisor on HMAS Perth.

“Josh loves serving, and as long as he is going away and enjoying himself and still being able to support us, we will continue to support him, even though we miss him terribly,” she said.

Ms Barry copes with having a partner away for long periods by creating positive habits.

“Having a good routine and an outlet like the gym with a crèche is a win for me, and a win for the kids,” she said.

Earlier this year, Ms Barry took part in the six-week Cowork Coplay trial program, where 15 Navy partners and their children accessed professional mentoring and free childcare.

The program helped Ms Barry expand her social circle, as well as connect with a career coach, several local agencies, and undertake free training and career progression courses.

“I actually have a brand new resume, LinkedIn profile from working with the career coach and I am also enrolled into a Certificate IV to hopefully become a teacher’s aid,” she said.

The program was a big confidence boost for Ms Barry, inspiring her to look for different career paths that will work for her and her family in the long run.

“Hopefully as a teacher’s aid I can be a parent that doesn’t miss out on the little things with the kids when I go back to work,” she said.

“Especially when Josh is on deployments, I can hopefully work at the same school as my children. My goal is to become a Defence school mentor.”

Cowork Coplay is one of many family initiatives being implemented under Navy’s ‘Stay Onboard – People First’ campaign, which includes a go-to resource titled Navy Families Handbook, limiting the time partners spend away from home and improving internet connectivity at sea.

“These programs are very important, especially when you have young kids and you are in a new location and don’t have a support system [like family and friends],” Ms Barry said.

Despite daily emails and FaceTime calls with Chief Petty Officer Scanlon, Ms Barry has something special planned for his return from deployment.

“The kids will be picked up early from school so they can greet daddy and smother him with cuddles and kisses at the port. We are then hitching up the pre-packed van to go camping for the weekend,” she said.

Holidays are extra special for Ms Barry, as it means precious time spent together as a family.

“At Christmas time we went away in the caravan to Esperance for a week and then to Cervantes. So many beautiful beach days, exploring and just being with each other, laughing and playing cards, and just making memories with the kids. That’s what it’s all about,” she said.


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