Defence School Mentor (DSM) Program

St John Paul ll College has a large defence community. To accommodate the needs of our defence students there is a Defence School Mentor (DSM). DSMs are funded by the Department of Defence through Defence Members and Families Support Branch (DMFS) and employed as a member of the school staff. The Defence School Mentor role at St John Paul ll College seeks to promote community connections and build positive relationships with students and families.

Zonika Smith is our current DSM and is onsite Mondays through Wednesdays and Thursday mornings and can be contacted via email or by telephone 02 6163 4800.

Defence families are defined as families in which either or both parents are serving members of the Australian Army, Air Force or Navy and Reservists who are on Continuous Full-Time Service (CFTS).


As a Defence School Mentor (DSM), Zonika assists Defence students and their families upon their arrival at JPC, during deployment or training, and as students transition out from JPC. Zonika is a defence spouse with an understanding of the unique lifestyle and challenges that Defence families face.

In the role of DSMs, Zonika assists with:
  • Settling in: Transitioning to a new school can be stressful for some students. Understandably, the reasons are often unfamiliarity with others and the need to make new friends, as well as adjusting to a new education system. Zonika will work to make your child feel like an important member of the school community and to establish friendship and support networks as soon as possible. Zonika also supports the College Pastoral Care Program and is a key staff member to contact for Pastoral Care-related issues.
  • Further Support: Zonika can provide information on educational allowances provided by the Department of Defence if your child requires additional tuition in conjunction with the educational support JPC provides, such as peer and homework clubs.
  • Deployed parent/Absent from Home (courses or URF): Family separation affects all members of the family, and young adults' behaviour can change as they adjust to changes in their home life. When a family member is away, defence students frequently enjoy and benefit from participating in weekly 'Defence Catch-ups'. It reminds them of the additional support available and that someone else at Defence Catch-ups is usually in the same situation. It is strongly advised that you contact Zonika to inform her if your family has a serving member who is about to leave, is away, or will soon return. She will notify your child's teachers so that additional support can be provided if we notice any changes in behaviour.
  • Posting Out: Most young adults adjust well and view relocation as an adventure. Others require additional encouragement and positive thinking strategies. Zonika works with students who are moving out of Canberra to say goodbye to their current friends and talk about preparing for their new school as well as organising a farewell Pizza party!

Understanding that Defence students are a culture unto themselves, Zonika runs a weekly Defence Luch Club, encouraging connection, fun and opportunities to talk through issues and emotions that surface because of their lived experience.

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