After 13 years serving with the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy, followed by a lateral transfer to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) where he served another four years, Dave Henderson made the transition out of active service and into civilian life in 2014.
During his four years on the minehunter, HMAS Huon, Dave was at sea for nine to ten months of the year.
‘While working on HMAS Huon, I assisted in evacuating people from Ambae Island (Vanuatu) due to a potential volcanic eruption,’ he said. ‘We helped build temporary shelters, provide supplies for them and played lots of football with the kids from the island. It was nice to put happy faces on the kids. Some very talented football players are there too. Watch out, Messi!’
When asked why he left the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Dave said, ‘I was just getting to that stage where I was not enjoying visits ashore. I feel that it was due to my age a bit too. I also witnessed life a lot more on the contractor side to Defence and liked the idea of doing that for a period of time and getting to wave bye bye to the ships, instead of going away on them.’
Dave has been engaged with reserve work as a Community Engagement Co-ordinator in New South Wales since leaving the RAN.
Soon after he left the services he found work with global healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline, but felt the constant pull back to working with Defence.
‘I guess my strengths were within Defence and it wasn’t long before I was relocated to Darwin with Serco to become the Armidale Class Patrol Boat Engineering Instructor for two years. I really loved the experience I had there and especially life in the Northern Territory. It’s a tough climate but they sure do know how to enjoy themselves. My current role is at Atlantic & Peninsula, managing production on HMAS Choules for the upgrades during maintenance periods.
The most personally rewarding adventure for Dave has been with his wife and three kids.
‘Building the blocks and kicking off our dream to build and own a brewery in Mudgee has been life changing,’ he says. ‘My wife Shiree and I have been growing the Hop & Clover Brewing Co for nearly three years now. We now have four core recipes including an Irish red ale, pale ale, mid strength and a honey ginger beer. It’s a tough market and somewhat saturated but we are looking to set up here in Mudgee and join in the fun with wineries and tourism.’
Dave adds that Shiree is even eyeing up the gin industry.
When it comes to transitioning from the ADF, Dave suggests being proactive and planning early.
‘The biggest mistake is to think you have eight or 12 months to plan, and leave it until last minute. Time really catches up with you. Don’t be scared of what’s ahead, there’s so much work out there, especially Defence-related. Engage with some recruitment companies which focus on helping ex-Defence members such as WithYouWithMe or Kinexus.
‘The transition from military to civilian life really deserves the attention. Don’t burn bridges with Defence either and look into reserve work – there could be something out there that can be your back up as you transition. It’s good to have options.’
Thank you for your service, Dave.