A call to serve oth­ers brought them to­gether but de­spite chal­lenges, cur­rency in the ‘love bank’ is what binds them for the long term

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - RELATIVE VALUES -


Dad (Bob Er­bacher) came from Ger­man stock, small­go­ods butch­ers who set­tled orig­i­nally on the Dar­ling Downs, and I grew up on farm­land in Rock­lea, out on the flood­plains. Af­ter Sal­is­bury State High School I wanted to go with the boys who were my friends to join the army, but you couldn’t go to the Aus­tralian De­fence Force Academy and study psy­chol­ogy back then, which is what I wanted to do. So I went to the Univer­sity of Queens­land then joined the army re­serves not long af­ter I fin­ished uni.

I was a ca­reer re­servist, in private prac­tice for 20 years, do­ing con­sult­ing work. I worked in in­tel­li­gence for the army, train­ing peo­ple who were go­ing to work over­seas, and was de­ployed over­seas my­self sev­eral times. We have a one-army pol­icy, so you might work in a re­serve unit sep­a­rate from reg­u­lar army, but we’re all in­te­grated units. I worked part-time in the army, end­ing up as Lieu­tenant-Colonel, run­ning force ex­trac­tion teams in East Ti­mor and the Mid­dle East.

When we ro­tate the force, we ex­tract them a bit like ex­tract­ing a tooth. We check out how they’re trav­el­ling psy­cho­log­i­cally on the ground be­fore we send them home. I had a very blessed ca­reer as an army re­servist – the op­por­tu­ni­ties are great.

It gives taxi driv­ers no end of amuse­ment when they find out (my hus­band Brian and I are) both psy­chol­o­gists. You know, what do two psy­chol­o­gists talk about? He’s got PTSD (post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der) from his ser­vice and, I sup­pose, some days are hard. In some ways it’s eas­ier to treat other peo­ple than sup­port the per­son you love most in the world. The sad­dest thing for me – and him, too – is he’s not quite how he used to be, but he’s still the man I fell in love with. He’s bright and he’s also a great big hunk of spunk. I think one of those spe­cial things about big loves is that the other per­son com­pletely un­der­stands you.

The sad­dest thing for me – and him, too – is he’s not quite how he used to be, but he’s still the man I fell in love with


Dad (Pa­trick) passed away when I was 15 and Mum (Mar­garet) stayed at home till we were in high school, then be­came an ad­min per­son work­ing with a mis­sion­ary or­der. I spent five years in the sem­i­nary (at Essendon in Mel­bourne) train­ing to be a priest. In my first year, my younger sis­ter, Paula – who was about to turn 18 – died in a mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent on her way home from visiting me. I wanted to leave but Mum wanted me to stay, so I did, but I knew I was in a rut when the priest in charge asked me why the only thing I at­tended with any ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment was rugby.

I went back home to Syd­ney af­ter that and was a builder’s labourer for a year and got enough money to go to uni to study psy­chol­ogy. I thought I’d give the army a crack and joined up as a di­rect en­try of­fi­cer at 28. I had a num­ber of post­ings in Aus­tralia, then did a num­ber of force ex­trac­tions in Afghanistan (spe­cial­ist teams, in­clud­ing psy­chol­o­gists, as­sist­ing troops tran­si­tion­ing from war zones). I met Jan­ice when I was do­ing of­fi­cer train­ing and wanted a de­cent coun­ter­point to work with me – I was male, reg­u­lar army, and I wanted some­one who was fe­male, a re­servist, and who was a suc­cess­ful con­sul­tant in the civil­ian world. We’ve done a lot of work to­gether and she knows that the army is not a job, it’s a life­style.

She’s a very strong woman, very warm and lov­ing, and she “got” me. She’s re­ally in­tel­li­gent and be­ing an­other psy­chol­o­gist means we have many in­ter­ests in com­mon. We’re both pretty pas­sion­ate and it can get fiery but fun­da­men­tally we love each other deeply, so there’s a lot of cur­rency in the love bank. I know that some days she’s got one too many vet­er­ans with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der – she can’t get away from her work when she’s got me. But she saved my life.

Pic­ture: Rus­sell Shake­speare

Jan­ice and Brian John­ston, both psy­chol­o­gists and re­tired army of­fi­cers, now de­ploy their ser­vices at Mates4Mates, a group that helps serv­ing and for­mer Aus­tralian De­fence Force per­son­nel.

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