Beyond Service Awards Finalist Spotlight: Hayley Boswell
Five years ago Hayley Ann Boswell was feeding her baby daughter when an early morning moment of panic sparked the idea for Defence Kidz.
Today the platform encompasses a series of picture books, a strong social media presence, community advocacy and a cartoon series in the works, all with the aim to help and advocate for children of veterans and serving Australian Defence Force members.
And it is all run by Ms Boswell with the support of her partner, Bradley, and her two daughters, Evie, 5, and Alice, 3.
But half a decade ago it all started with that “mini freakout” when Ms Boswell was a first-time mum and her partner was serving in the Royal Australian Navy.
“The idea first came at about 2.30 in the morning,” the Adelaide-based lawyer said.
“I had this realization that Brad was going to go away at some point with defence and what that looked like for my child.”
As a former youth worker, Ms Boswell began looking for resources for her daughter and found “not a lot”.
“I thought, well, I need to do something about this quite quickly, before she gets too old,” the 41-year-old said.
And that’s how Ms Boswell’s first book, My Dad’s in the Australian Navy came about.
“(The book) set out what Evie’s dad's role was in the Navy … and that, even though he was away, it was really important that he helped those communities, that he helped other people, and he's got this job that's bigger than our family.
“I wanted her to have this awareness and appreciation for what he was doing.”
Ms Boswell gifted the book to her partner for his first Father’s Day and when the proud dad showed it off on social media, requests came flooding in.
First it was from other Navy families and then Army and RAAF families along with the serving mums asking for their own versions.
Ms Boswell created more books, but she was driven to do more.
Next came colouring sheets distributed through Defence Member and Family Support (DMFS), defence community centres, schools and even Coles during the Anzac Day period.
Then a social media platform to “create awareness for and to promote ADF families, offer support and educate the community”.
Most recently came the idea to turn the books into a cartoon.
“Through connections of connections, we found the producers for Cheeky Little Media and as soon as we pitched the idea to them, they said, this is a no brainer,” Ms Boswell said.
And throughout the past five years, Defence Kidz has continued to help and advocate for defence children.
“One of the things that we did was we advocated for ADF children in South Australia to be recognized when they moved schools,” Ms Boswell said.
Working with Veterans SA, she is campaigning to get a tick box included on school enrolment forms to ensure children of defence members and veterans are identified and offered appropriate support.
Ms Boswell said along the way there were struggles, but she was someone who was spurred on by those bumps in the road.
“Running a law firm, running Defence Kidz, being a mum and having a partner away, it has its challenges,” she said.
“But I think that a challenge is an opportunity for me to overcome it.
“And if I see an opportunity, I think that's my opportunity I need to jump at this.”
Ms Boswell said while she was proud of her achievements, she couldn’t have done it without her supporters.
“Honestly I'm surrounded by amazing people like my partner,” she said.
“He is so supportive and my biggest cheerleader, and my children, they love my books.”
Ms Boswell said organisations including Defence Bank, DMFS, Defence Families Australia, Bravery Trust, Prince's Trust Australia and Veterans SA along with ministers for Defence and Veterans’ Affairs have all helped Defence Kidz.
And while the one-woman show that is Defence Kidz continues to expand, Ms Boswell said her greatest achievement was just knowing she’d made a difference.
And one particular moment stands out.
“My partner … was telling me the men and women who were in Afghanistan were recording themselves reading my stories and sending it back to their children,” she said
“That was probably THE moment that, for me, was the biggest.
“It just gets you in the feels.
“And also, when I see children in Book Week dressing up as their parents and holding my books.”
Ms Boswell said she was thrilled to be a finalist in the Prince’s Trust Australia Beyond Service Awards.
“Prince’s Trust is definitely a great organisation that is having a hugely positive impact in this world,” she said.
“So I feel quite honoured to be recognized by such a great organisation.”
Ms Boswell said future plans for Defence Kidz included continued advocacy, such as pushing for a defence and veterans families’ day, creating the Defence Kidz cartoon and collaborations with businesses and organisations to support defence children.
Visit Hayley's business: https://defencekidz.com.au/
With thanks to freelance copywriter and ADF partner Courtney Snowden. Find Courtney on LinkedIn.
An initiative of the Prince’s Trust Australia Enterprise programme, the Beyond Service Awards are designed to celebrate the entrepreneurial achievements of Australia’s veteran and family business community.
The Awards are an opportunity to recognise the depth and breadth of skills and experience veterans and Defence Force families bring to Australia’s small business landscape.
The 2022 Beyond Service Awards are proudly sponsored by Gold Sponsor Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and Silver Sponsors PwC Australia and BAE Systems Australia.
For a full list of the Beyond Service Awards finalists, visit here.