Together we stand: Brigette Glynn and Shaun Graham

Brigette Glynn is on a mission to ensure female veterans have someone to speak to when they need support ­– and Dubbo RSL sub-Branch President Shaun Graham is ready to help.

As told to Jessica Abelsohn

Brigette Glynn

Brigette Glynn has recently started sharing her experiences in Defence, including her experiences of trauma that led to a diagnosis of PTSD. While some memories are difficult to talk about, she believes that the more she speaks up, the more willing others will be to share their own experiences.

Growing up, Mum wasn’t really into schooling, and when I considered courses at TAFE, I couldn’t find anything that drew my attention. So Dad took me to the Army recruitment centre. I walked in, fell in love and signed up. Defence was in my blood. After Kapooka, I moved around Australia a fair bit before I was medically discharged in Sydney.

Pretty early on I realised that it was a very different experience for women in Defence. When you sign up, you become part of the military personnel. For women, this could mean feeling sexualised by other personnel or told to ‘man up’. In my case, I felt I lost my femininity.

There are so many female veterans who need support, and as women, we are here to support one another. But the men support us too, and that’s what’s so special about the Dubbo sub-Branch.

Things are slowly changing for the better. It’s not all about having a drink, it’s about improving mental health, learning to do other things, broadening your horizons and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Younger veterans have seen how staying quiet has impacted older veterans, such as those who served in Vietnam. We don’t want to be like that.

There are always going to be people who don’t want to talk about their experiences, and that’s OK. That’s one of the main reasons I joined the sub-Branch. If I don’t step up, who will? I have to pave the way, just like other women who have come before me.

At the Dubbo RSL sub-Branch, I’m not made to do all the jobs that were once associated with women. I’m an equal part of the committee, part of the team. The difference is that I now have lots of uncles and brothers who accept me for who I am. Being involved has really pulled me out of my shell.

Another big offering is our drop-in centre, which is open to everyone. There’s a library and computers. We have a support worker and a DVA Claims Advocate to help those in need. It’s where we host most of our events; we had a movie night not long ago with a big open fire. We also hold barbecues and have a vegetable garden going in.

For any women looking to join an RSL sub-Branch, or even for those who don’t feel like they’re ready to go into one, my phone is always on. I’m always here to talk to fellow female veterans, because I’ve been there. It’s quite daunting to go into a place full of old fellas, but I’ve never felt more protected in all my life. I’m very much loved and looked after.

Shaun Graham

Dubbo sub-Branch President Shaun Graham is a strong advocate for ensuring female veterans feel safe and supported.

Going into Defence isn’t the most popular of professions for a young boy growing up in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. When I joined up, a lot of my friends were taken aback. But it was the best decision of my life, and something I wanted to do from when I was young.

After a stint in the UK where I was embedded in the British Army, I came back to Dubbo, where my wife at the time had moved to be closer to her family while I was away. The moment I landed, the Dubbo RSL sub-Branch gave me an application form. I’m now the president.

I met Brigette through the sub-Branch. From the beginning, she sought to get more female veterans involved, and it’s something the entire sub-Branch supports.

Regardless of who you are or where you come from, when you join Defence you join a club. Sometimes, because of the warrior image prominent in the Army, women tend to downplay their role in the service. But like any profession, women fill many jobs in the military.

It’s important they are recognised the same as men.

It’s brilliant that Brigette feels so comfortable and safe here at the sub-Branch. We’re trying to build a culture here. It’s not all beers and pokies, it’s about helping and looking out for one another. That’s what the drop-in centre is all about.

There’s an understanding that if there’s a car in the driveway, someone is there and anyone is welcome to pop in. We’ve had veterans drop in from as far as Bourke, Nyngan and Cobar.

To those women looking to join a sub-Branch, I’d simply say take the plunge. You might be pleasantly surprised. Here at Dubbo, we’re very welcoming, and I’m sure other sub-Branches are as well. Give it a crack because it’s a good thing to get involved in.

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