THE Penman family – Mike, Liesa, three-year-old twins Flynn and Riley and Bundy the dog – tell us about life Down Under…

How long have you been an army family?
We have been married for eight years, but I have served for 32 years.

Time in current overseas location?
One-and-a-half years.

How many other military families live in the location?
We have other military exchange officer families based in Canberra, but none of them live close to us in southern Canberra.

What’s your quarter like?
Being on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) platform, we live in an FCO owned property, which is large and beautiful. It’s also right on the border of a National Park, so the surroundings are lovely too.

Are there any employment/training opportunities?
Liesa is an Australian citizen, so yes, lots of opportunity for her to find employment.

What about schools/childcare?
Childcare is expensive, but there are lots of schools to choose from nearby, and they are of an excellent standard.

Where do army families get together and who supports you?
Our community liaison officer, who works for the FCO, tries to bring together both the FCO and the exchange officer communities.

How do you find the cost of living there?
Australia is an expensive place to live. We are in receipt of COLA – similar to Local Overseas Allowance – which really helps, but you need to cut your cloth accordingly.

What are the best and worst things about living in the location?
Canberra is a great place for young families. There are a lot of museums and fabulous parks, which are mostly all free to attend. It’s also amazing just how close to nature we are. We regularly get kangaroos around the house. In fact, so much so, that our two little people now get more excited about seeing a horse ride
past than by seeing kangaroos nibbling on the front lawn.

Would you recommend it as a family posting?
Absolutely. Australia is the perfect place for young families.

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