I joined the navy in 1997 as a Combat Systems Operator. It was a lifelong ambition, I love the ocean and someone from each generation of my family has served in the military since my great grandfather. I served for six years and transitioned out in 2003 because I had a toddler and I knew that a career in the navy would mean a lot of sea time and separation from my family. When I left, I joined the Department for Correctional Services for two years, before moving to the Commonwealth Government to work for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). During my 11 years with DVA, I worked in several service delivery areas and in December 2016, I commenced in my current role with Veterans SA.
Busy!! State public servants are very close to the coal face while still having to deal with strategic level issues. There are very few layers between state government and the public so the opportunity exists to get your hands dirty one minute, and then provide policy advice to a Minister the next. There really isn’t an average day. My days range from staff management, communications management, drafting Ministerial responses, assisting ex-service organisations with any issues they are experiencing and being involved in projects to achieve better outcomes veteran community. Regional engagement is also a part of my role as it is essential that regional veterans know that they are represented and supported. I also regularly attend commemorative services within the community.
I love being able to have meaningful input, and to see that my input makes a difference. I find it fulfilling advocating on behalf of veterans and being a conduit between the veteran community and government. Most importantly, I get great satisfaction from having an input into change, seeing those changes implemented and the positive impact this has for the veteran community. Seeing projects that you have worked on come to fruition like the Memorial Walk on Kintore Avenue, Adelaide and the Jamie Larcombe Centre at Glenside is very rewarding.
I believe that Veterans SA’s focus on ‘the next 50 years’ is vitally important. Assisting to position the government to be able to provide appropriate services for our veterans into the future is crucial as the services that are going to be required differ greatly from those provided to the older cohort of veteran. However, in saying that, we still need to ensure our older veterans are cared for and appropriately acknowledged. It is important to educate public sector employees about veterans and their service, working towards dispelling any myths or perceptions that there may be. For me, being able to continue to serve both the veteran community and the government provides me with great personal and professional satisfaction - I feel as though I am still making a valuable contribution.
While working in the public sector, I have met inspiring people who have driven me to continually want to do better and I have been given the opportunity to undertake training that I otherwise would not have had available to me. I am fortunate that my daughter also sees the opportunities open to me, and this inspires her to do well and believe that anything is possible, with hard work and dedication. The positive attitude towards, and promotion of, work/life balance within the public sector is also something that enables me to maintain a healthy family life, which is very important with a teenage daughter.
Applying for administrative roles was challenging due to the unfamiliar language, strict requirements and the manner in which criteria had to be addressed. Understanding and then communicating my transferable skills into ‘civilian language’ was a difficult exercise.
Without the benefit of having applied for internal positions within the Commonwealth Government and knowing people who had previously gone through the process, I would have found it extremely difficult to decipher the requirements and navigate the application writing process.
I would encourage any ex-serving personnel looking for a new career in the public sector to speak to someone who has made the transition. Get guidance on application writing, and how to use correct terminology. Military jargon is very different to civilian speak, so making sure that someone, with potentially no knowledge of the military, can understand the information trying to be conveyed is key. If possible, try and sit a couple of ‘mock interviews’ so you know what to expect. Not too many people sit ‘job interviews’ while serving. Walking into a panel interview can be daunting. The biggest challenge I had was promoting ‘me’. The military is all about ‘we’ and ‘team’, so dropping those two words when speaking about outcomes and achievements was very difficult, but very necessary. Military folk are self-effacing and humble – a job interview is not the time for humility, it’s all about self-promotion and selling yourself and those highly valuable skills you have learned.
Adelaide is home for me. I was born here and it is where most of my family live, so it was important for me to return here once I completed my military career. South Australia was the only place I wanted to raise my daughter. Growing up here has provided me with wonderful memories and I want the same for her.