Writing Competition | Gambling on Our Future HappinessBy Mark Mankowski November 18, 2020
It has begun. I am refreshing my browser every five minutes. It happens every two years in the second half of the year – my gambling addiction returns. It is quite a unique habit peculiar to Australian Defence Force personnel and especially members of the Army.
I am on the Defence Housing Australia (DHA) Homefind website waiting for the perfect property to appear. The perfect property is within my rent band, within my bedroom entitlement, close to work, in a good primary school catchment area and on good transport links to our chosen secondary school. I am not alone in wanting the perfect property. Children’s education, housing quality and location, and partner employment were the most important considerations for ADF families in the 2019 ADF Family Survey Report. The report goes on to say that approximately half of Defence families would choose to live in Service Residence if given the choice. The predominant reason for members not utilising Service Residence is due to location, indicating the importance of Service Residence in desirable locations. At least half of us want a perfect property from DHA.
Refresh – still nothing there. I do not know when this perfect property will appear. There is no pattern that I have been able to discern in my 12 years of service. One appeared at 0418. My wife and I were awake dealing with a child that persistently woke up at that time. Some have appeared on a Monday morning; others appear just after lunchtime. All we know is that persistence pays off.
Refresh – still nothing there. The real problem with my addiction is that I do not know if my persistence will pay off. I have no idea if a DHA property within my rent band, within my bedroom entitlement, close to work, in a good primary school catchment area and on good transport links to our chosen secondary school actually exists. At least with the Oz Lotto you have a chance – albeit 1 in 45,379,620 - of scoring the Jackpot (seven numbers). The chance of me finding our perfect property might be zero. This was proven during one illuminating phone call with DHA early in my career, when it was revealed after a month of refreshing that there were no properties with my bedroom entitlement in my posting locality.
Refresh – still nothing there. Now I know that we (members of the Australian Army) are all different. This was reinforced when 90% of the unit I am posted to had to work from home during COVID-19. We all have unique domestic requirements and they also change with time. During my first posting the priority for accommodation was proximity to work, then it was about day-care and spouse employment, next it was a good primary school and now we need primary, secondary and tertiary education and a bit of garden for the dog (that I did not want). Still if we go back to the ADF Family Survey Report, a good Service Residence is the second most important consideration for families with and without dependent children.
How can we simplify this process of gambling on our future happiness so that the time saved (not constantly refreshing my internet browser) can be reinvested to becoming Future Ready? I have two practical suggestions that are easy to implement.
Practical Suggestion 1: DHA provide an interactive map of a posting locality that shows where the housing stock exists. Simply enter your entitlement and posting locality and all of the suitable service residences within 30 km each way by public road (or how far the member can travel in 150 minutes by the most appropriate and efficient means of public transport) should appear. Now, I understand that just because DHA have houses where I want to live, it does not mean that one of them will become available; however, I am now gambling with a probability of above zero.
I can build this map myself through Open Source Intelligence (which the Cove has taught me to do). I can look at what the investing arm of DHA is up to, I can read the DHA Annual Report and I can network on one of the useful Defence Partners of [insert posting location] Facebook page. As we have discussed above this takes me away from becoming Future Ready.
Practical Suggestion 2: Increase Posting Cycles to at least three years.
Increasing posting cycles to three years would mean less moving and less disruption to families, it would reduce the cost to the Commonwealth and, Refresh – still nothing there, it would reduce the time I spend refreshing my internet browser every two years. Army has done an excellent job reducing interstate moves as a result of COVID-19, while meeting the service need. Therefore, some of the ground work of reducing families’ relocations has already been done.
There you have it. Two practical suggestions that are easy to implement and the resulting time saved by hundreds of Army personnel can be reinvested into becoming Future Ready.
Refresh – wait there is a house…