Adam Barnard joined the Army in 1992 aged 17, and served with the 10th Light Horse and the 2/14th Light Horse (Queensland Mounted Infantry). He was deployed to East Timor in 2000 with 6RAR Battalion Group as a Crew Commander of an M113A1 armoured personnel carrier. Unfortunately, he injured his back in Timor and, on his return to Australia, was medically discharged after almost 10 years in the Army.
Adam got a job as the operations manager for a bus company before founding his own coach company in 2006. The business thrived and became the Telstra WA Business of the Year in 2013. Adam puts his success down to sheer hard work, and a need to be constantly mentally active – something he believes is common to many people who join the services.
‘But I was also capitalising on a skill set and discipline I’d acquired in the Army,’ he says. ‘The military was definitely part of the secret, and that’s true of a lot of veteran-owned businesses out there. Translating those military skills into business life isn’t always easy but it can be done.
‘And there’s plenty of help out there that wasn’t available to me back in the early days. The Veterans Community Business Chamber for instance. I would encourage all veterans – regular and reserve – to be proud of your service and utilise those skill sets, which the business community is becoming more attuned to.’
In mid-2019, Adam was invited to join the team at Perth-based Spinifex Brewing Company as chief executive officer, and provide the seed capital required to get the business off the ground. It was the right choice. The company was founded by Mick Little, John Gibbs and Steve Jansen. Mick is an Indigenous Australian and has used his knowledge to infuse Spinifex’s beers with native Australian botanicals, all provided by Indigenous sources – either farmed or wild harvested.
During the COVID pandemic, they pivoted towards hand sanitiser production.
A number of its volunteers are ex-serving as well as many of its minor shareholders. Adam was originally the only full-time veteran at Spinifex but that changed recently when Spinifex hired Army Reservist Jason Connor to be the new face of F88 premium lager post-COVID, particularly as the company seeks to expand to the east coast.
Spinifex has a range of six beers, of which the most successful is F88 – named after the Austeyr rifle that has been in service with the Australian Defence Force since 1989. Half of the profits Spinifex makes from sales of F88 go towards veteran mental health charities in each state, chief among them Connected By in Western Australia. The beer is dedicated to the memory of Signaller Geffrey Gregg who served in Afghanistan and sadly died by suicide in 2006. Signaller Gregg was the partner of Adam’s sister.
The principle behind the F88 campaign was that sitting down with a beer is a great way to start important conversations with a mate.
‘Blokes don’t generally talk about things as much as we probably should,’ says Adam. ‘But it’s important to check in on each other.’
Adam says that support for F88 among pubs and RSL clubs has been overwhelming. However, the continuous disruptions related to the COVID lockdowns have hampered the company’s rollout on the Eastern seaboard.
On 16 September 2021, Spinifex launched its low-alcohol Australian Light Horse Lager to honour the re-raising to full regiment status of the 10th Light Horse, Adam’s former unit. It also recently launched a non-alcoholic Gubinge (aka Kakadu Plum) ginger beer.
Adam is very proud of Spinifex and its beers – especially because the company supports Indigenous people and veteran mental health.
‘I wanted to do something really meaningful to assist my fellow veterans,’ he says.
‘We know veteran mental health and veteran suicide is a big problem not only in Australia but globally and that’s something we have to change.’
Left: Corporal Adam Barnard (left) and his driver Luke Woolfe next to the M113A1 armoured personnel carrier (22 Charlie) he commanded in East Timor, 2000 with 6RAR Bn Gp.
Below: (from left) CEO Adam Barnard, Founder Mick Little, Communications Manager Steve Jansen, Robert Dann (Aboriginal Native Botanical Provider to Spinifex) and Head Brewer John Gibbs.