Making the most of a Defence life

Debra Fairbanks-Smith is a Defence Community Relationship Officer with Defence Health. She loves her work, engaging with Defence families and supporting them with their health care.

She also loves her personal connection with Defence and the experiences that the Army has enabled for her and her family.

Debra has always had an enormous regard for Defence. “Dad is a Vietnam Veteran, and both my grandfathers served.  And of course, my husband, Michael, is an Aeronautical Engineer and has been serving in full-time Army for 27 years,” she says proudly.

Debra met Michael in Toowoomba 25 years ago when he was a helicopter mechanic. The couple has enjoyed an amazing Defence journey, and now on their ninth posting, find themselves back in Toowoomba where it all began.

“We had our first daughter, Elizabeth, while in Clarksville, Tennessee. Michael missed most of the pregnancy because he was deployed to Iraq for 13 months with US Forces.

“Then Michael was posted to Fort Campbell in Kentucky with 101st Airborne Division of the US Army. I worked at the local university counselling small businesses, and also ran workshops at the base, advising transitioning Army members on how to start a small business,” Debra explains.

In 2010 it was time for another posting and another baby! Second daughter, Elodie, was born in Aix en Provence, France.

Debra loved the family’s time in France. “I wasn’t able to work, so I filled my days learning French and indulging my artistic passion in a ceramic art class,” she says.

The art class and interaction with other students was valuable in developing her language skills and helped her adjust to life in such a very foreign country.

“I was thrilled to be invited to present my art in the annual art exhibition. Not many people can say they’ve exhibited in France!”

Debra, Michael and the girls have just returned to Toowoomba from a posting in Adelaide.

“We’re still loving the Defence life and engaging with the communities where we live,” says Debra.

Defence life certainly isn’t easy explains Debra.  But as a family they make the most of each opportunity that comes their way and have met amazing people who have enriched each posting that they have experienced.

“I’ve coached the girls’ netball teams; joined school committees; and in Adelaide I was asked to join the School Board. Life is an adventure and I feel incredibly lucky that my current role with Defence Health can travel with me to a new posting. It’s a great organisation and I enjoy working with the Defence Community.”