It’s a story so many Canberrans share: they met at an ADFA Corps party in the early 1990s, fell deeply in love and have since had a marriage that’s navigated 11 moves, 15 deployments, two children and 10 years apart.
But what’s it like being married to a senior member of the Australian Defence Force – especially when you’re a civilian?
Hayman Partners business development and portfolio manager Elle Earley fills us in on life as a military spouse.
Elle’s husband Jonathan Earley is a Navy Captain, soon to be promoted to Commodore. He’s highly ambitious, Elle says, but he’s driven by something “almost unexplainable”: a higher sense of purpose felt by most members of the Defence Force.
“It’s a privilege to support someone who is so obviously living their calling,” Elle says.
“And I think a lot of Defence personnel will relate to that sense of higher purpose, the sense that you work for something much much bigger than yourself.”
While Elle provides unconditional support to Jon – wherever he happens to be in the world – it works both ways.
“He would never trivialise what I do and always provides insanely good advice,” she says.
“There’s a mutual respect despite our very different work lives.”
There have been several instances, Elle says, where Jon has advised days before a special occasion that he won’t be home in time to celebrate with the family.
“It sounds harsh but you learn not to make firm plans – for Easter, Christmas and other holidays,” Elle says.
“But for me, those special occasions can and do include him wherever he may be in the world.
“Being adaptable is probably the most crucial quality in being married to someone in the ADF.”
When Jon arrives home, the Earlerys – including children Dylan, 20, and Annabelle, 15 – grab a tent, pack the four wheel drive and head out the mountains or the desert.
“It’s how we all re-connect. And it’s so important.”
Elle admits that having a husband who’s away for long stretches – including living in a separate city in Australia for years at a time – is hard.
That’s when she draws on support from other women, including other military spouses.
“Some of my best friends are women I’ve met in times of need, when my husband has been deployed,” she says.
“Whether they were other school mums or work colleagues, they are now lifelong friends.”
When the Earley family moved to Sydney in 1997 and Perth in 1999, as Jon’s Naval career progressed, Elle became adept at building a new support network within a matter of hours.
“The second you arrive in a new city, you could be asking someone you met that morning for help that afternoon.”
“Working at Hayman Partners is just amazing,” Elle says.
“I have a boss and a team who know and love Jon, who know our situation and who understand that a lot of the time, I’m on my own.”
Elle has flexible working hours, is tooled up to work “from anywhere”.
Like in 2002, when the Earleys went to London to meet someone very special.
“Yes, I’ve met the Queen,” Elle laughs.
“I’ve been to Buckingham Palace. I’ve been able to access areas of ships – like the HMAS Adelaide which Jon captained in 2017 and 2018 – that other people would never be able to see.
“It’s an absolute honour.”