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Charles Cannard — finding my new niche

Charles Cannard enlisted in the Army in March 2009 and became a gunner in the Royal Regiment of the Australian Artillery.

‘I pretty much joined straight out of school,’ Charles said. ‘I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be in the Army. It was just something I always wanted to do. Both my mother and father have served in the Navy, so Dad was pretty keen on me joining the Navy too but I get seasick looking at the ocean, so Army it was. The Army was going to be my forever job.’

Charles wearing a sky blue surgical cap and navy blue medical "scrub" clothing and standing beside a hospital bed

Charles Cannard

The game that ended a career

Then after a seemingly harmless regimental game of soccer, everything changed for Charles.

‘I was playing soccer of all things. I think it was a slide tackle, I can’t really remember, and I snapped my tibial plateau. It just turned to dust. I’ve had multiple surgeries to try and fix it and make things awesome again. It wasn’t 100 per cent effective.’

After finding out he was going to be medically discharged, Charles was devastated. He had been in the Army for eight years and found the transition to civilian life to be quite a challenge.

‘The transition was hard for lots of reasons. I had enlisted straight out of school, and I’d been a part of a military family. So dealing with civilian things was difficult. I couldn’t talk to people the same way. I couldn’t be myself, but I had to be different. It’s a totally different thing. That was difficult, especially getting back into work. It was very difficult to wrap my head around not being able to do what I had wanted all my life. I needed to find a new direction, and this is where the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) stepped in.’

Moving forward with DVA Rehabilitation Support

DVA supported Charles while he tried to adjust to civilian life. It gave him access to rehabilitation, which gave him the opportunity to undertake physiotherapy for his injuries, receive vocational assistance to find a new career, and attend counselling to assist with some mental health concerns.

‘DVA was great with helping me keep on top of my health issues. I still had some restrictions with my injury, and being allowed access to seek treatment for my injuries means all the difference. I have been able to access physiotherapy, massage and emotional counselling to help smooth the transition.’

DVA also provided Charles with vocational counselling to identify suitable employment, and found a work trial to suit him.

‘My DVA rehabilitation provider organised for me to meet with a career adviser and together we identified that I would enjoy working in the medical field. My rehabilitation provider then gave me information on a job at St Andrew’s Hospital [in Brisbane] and helped me clean up my resume. With her there for support, I went to an interview. It was an actual job interview, so it could have gone either way, but she was great and was the help behind it all.’

Finding a new niche in my career

‘I really love my position as an orderly. It’s such a mixed bag – I get to do different things every day. From wheeling patients around pre-operation, to setting up an operative theatre, or even holding things for the surgeons mid-procedure so patients can be repositioned. It can be quite a high-stress situation sometimes, and since starting I have realised that skills I learnt in the Defence Force, like how to work under pressure and having impeccable time management, have most certainly transferred over and are very useful to my job.

‘I have to say, walking and moving is one of the biggest parts of my job. On a typical day, I will walk around 15,000 to 20,000 steps. There is no way I could be working so successfully without the access I have through DVA to physiotherapy and massage. It really does make a huge difference.

‘One of the other things I identified as an interest through my career manager was completing a Certificate 2 in Auslan [sign language]. DVA organised for me to complete that course, and I have been able to use that through my orderly position at St Andrew’s too.’

The two DVA services that Charles found most useful were the exercise physiologist and the career adviser.

My family support network

Charles credits his family as being his biggest support network.

‘My parents and my girlfriend are amazing. The support they have provided me, which has included putting a roof over my head, pushing me to get back to work, and providing physical and emotional support has been amazing. I can’t thank them enough.’

Charles’ experience showcases how a whole-of-person rehabilitation approach can help get someone back on their feet. With the support of his family and friends, physio and mental health assistance, career advice and access to further education and training, Charles hasn’t let his injury hold him back.

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