Every year, the families of fallen Australian soldiers meet for a long weekend to celebrate the lives of their lost loved ones and reconnect with the Australian Defence Force extended family.

Operation Slipper included the first Australian combat deaths since the Vietnam War and, to date, 41 Australian soldiers have died during operations in Afghanistan.

Ray and Pam Palmer lost their son, Private Scott Palmer, in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in 2010. They approached then Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, to seek permission to contact the other families of fallen soldiers to form a support group.   

“I wanted to get the families together every year, to get to know each other and share experiences, it’s good healing,” Pam Palmer said.

This year, the Families of the Fallen group flew across the country to hold their families’ weekend in Perth. They started with a morning activity at RAAF Base Pearce.  

The Commanding Officer of No. 2 Flying Training School, Wing Commander Grant Taylor, welcomed the group on their arrival.

“We are honoured to have the families of those defence force members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice with us today, you remind us of what we are here for and hopefully we make you proud,” Wing Commander Taylor said.

The group toured the military working dog section, the No. 79 Squadron simulator and static displays of the Hawk 127 and PC-21 aircraft.

Elvie Wood, who lost her husband Sergeant Brett Wood MG, DSM, during his third tour of Afghanistan in 2011, shared what the weekend meant to her.  

“For one weekend, I don’t need to pretend, I can talk about everything and anything I want to and not feel that I have to keep things hidden,” she said

“The people in the civilian world don’t really understand the triggers or the moments of sadness.

“But on these weekends, with these families, I can talk freely and feel accepted.”

The families continued their Perth visit with a tour and mess dinner at Campbell Barracks and concluded with a trip to Kings Park.