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New directions – retraining after service

There are many motivations for choosing a career in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). It is a choice that brings both unique opportunities and risks. Unlike many other professions, suffering an injury is something that can bring an ADF career to an early end. Many of those who receive a medical discharge find themselves in the unexpected position of having to choose a new path.

This challenge can be compounded for those who have suffered a permanent injury. Medically discharged personnel are eligible for assistance from DVA to manage the transition to suitable and sustainable civilian employment.

Nicholas Smith was medically discharged in 2012 after almost eight years in the ADF, including a tour of duty serving in East Timor. When Nicholas was contacted by his DVA Rehabilitation Delegate in the months before his discharge, he indicated that he had identified a business idea that he wished to pursue. Nicholas had seen and felt first-hand the desire and willingness among his fellow soldiers to pay for quality military equipment and saw the opportunity for establishing an online retail business.

Although Nicholas did not have specific skills relating to an internet start-up and small business, his Rehabilitation Coordinator recognised Nicholas’s drive and ambition. During his rehabilitation program DVA was able to provide assistance to Nicholas in a number of ways, including training, and helped to arrange independent professional advice and a meeting with an experienced online retailer.

As a result of this tailored approach to his needs, Nicholas received the support he needed to start his online business isoldier.com.au. He has ensured that the success of his venture will flow back to the Defence community, through a partnership with Legacy.

Support from DVA is not just available when ADF personnel are first medically discharged; sometimes this support is required later in life.

After being medically discharged in 1995, Steve Willmot retrained and built a career in the civil engineering industry, working in particular on laying pipes and cables. Steve was able to sustain this employment until 2012, when his injuries from his military service made further work in this physically demanding industry impossible.

Steve was again faced with the challenge of changing career. The difficulties faced by many making a mature age career change were exacerbated for Steve as a result of his accepted service-related injuries. To be eligible for support from DVA, Steve had to show that his new career choice would be physically sustainable.

Steve was a keen amateur pilot and believed he could make the transition to a career as a commercial pilot but, since his injury had caused him to cease employment, accumulating the necessary flying hours seemed out of reach. Medical evidence confirming his capacity to sustainably undertake the role of commercial pilot was sufficient for DVA to support Steve in reaching his goal.

As a result of this support, Steve is in sight of his final examinations and assessments, with almost enough flying time in his logbook. On completion of the requirements, Steve is confident of gaining employment as a commercial pilot in the general aviation industry.

As these examples show, no one-size-fits-all approach could accommodate the myriad of special circumstances and life situations which DVA clients find themselves in. DVA is committed to finding innovative and tailored solutions to support the medically discharged in building new careers.

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