Holly Higgins — finding the right path for you

Holly Higgins served as a driver in the Royal Australian Corps of Transport as a lance corporal and was enlisted in the Australian Army for six years.

15 December 2019

Holly Higgins served as a driver in the Royal Australian Corps of Transport as a lance corporal and was enlisted in the Australian Army for six years. Holly met her partner while she was serving, and is now the wife of a current serving member and mother of two young children.

Holly loved and appreciated her time in the Army. It was daunting for her when it came time to leave, not knowing what was ahead. But with the support of her family and the informed decisions she made to get her on the right transition path things are going really well.

Holly Higgins in Australiam Army combat uniform and holding an assault rifle. There is a black four wheel drive vehicle with two fellow Australian soldiers in the background.It was time to leave

I joined pretty much straight out of school, so I was pretty young. At the time, I thought that the Army was going to be my forever career. I really enjoyed my time in the Army.

After serving for a few years then meeting my now husband, between our deployments, field exercises and promotional courses it meant that we were rarely together. This lasted for about three years when it sort of hit home to me that this was what our future was always going to be like. And I realised it wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I felt like I couldn't do both, be a good partner and a good soldier to the best of my ability. So I decided to leave Defence and support my husband in his career.

It wasn’t until later I struggled with transition

I left Defence one day, and more or less started the next day in the immigration detention centre, where I was contracted into the Emergency Response team. I was there for about two years. It never really set in while I was working there that I was ever going to struggle with transition because it was a really familiar environment. There was structure, we had a strong team, we had to do a lot of physical training and a lot of preparation went in to the work that we carried out. I did really well in that environment.

It wasn’t until about two years later, when my husband was posted interstate. That's probably when it hit home, that I was going to have to have a good look at preparing to enter the workforce. It was the first time I realised that I felt really under-prepared for entering the civilian workforce and hadn’t taken advantage of any of the transition courses that were available while I was in the ADF.

After we moved, it was the first time in my life that had ever been unemployed, so I found that really hard. I did all the things that I thought were the right things to do. I did my own CV. I applied for everything online. I was getting knocked back and I was not hearing back from places. I ended up going about it the old fashioned way of just walking around with my resume. A lot of the feedback was that it was a bad time of year for employers to put new staff on, or that recruitment processes had moved online. I think the most daunting part was that I felt I didn't know what I had to offer anymore because on paper I wasn't showing what I could really contribute. I'm a warm, friendly and articulate person and my CV wasn't doing me any justice at all. So I definitely learnt a few things from that experience. 

Choosing what was next for me

Holly Higgins sitting on a grey sofa with green leaves in the background. She is smiling and wearing a floral dress and a Mates for Mates name tag

I did contract work for about a year before I had my son. It was at that time when I was finding it really hard to get a job that I decided to do something about it so I enrolled in a Diploma of Counselling. I decided to follow a welfare path. I really wanted to contribute to the Defence community, my community. So I decided to start there and then explore where that could take me.

I was coming back into the workforce after having 12 months off with my son, I'd completed my training and I had my Diploma of Counselling. It just so happened that Mates4Mates were recruiting a Liaison Officer. I thought this was perfect. They support families of Defence and I knew I could do a lot of good work in that space.

I've now been a Liaison Officer for the last two years. At Mates4Mates, we support Defence personnel and their families who have been wounded, injured or fallen ill as a result of their service. It's been a really fantastic role for me because it's what I care about. I don't feel like I can serve for Defence anymore, but I can still serve my community and my community is Defence families.

Continuing to study for my career

My life since I discharged from the military is completely different. I have two children. I've got my son and my daughter, and my husband serving in the ADF. So our family time is something that we really focus on when we are all together. I'm also currently studying a Bachelor of Social Work, so I'm trying to do that in between work and children. I'm halfway through now and I'm just looking forward to finishing that. Gaining this qualification will allow me to work more therapeutically with veterans and their families. That's what I really am aiming for. I want to provide more support on a professional level.

In my spare time I enjoy doing things with my family, in particular we love going camping. Because I've got little kids, fun for me is just things like going to the movies, the parks and eating out at lunchtime. This is where we spend our time together now.

My advice for other veterans

I think you definitely have to find new ways to reinvent yourself. You need to set realistic goals for yourself and be motivated to achieve them. Find something you are passionate about and run with it. I choose a career in welfare - I feel it’s always going to be something that's needed and always going to be an opportunity for me to serve and be a part of my community. So I think I've chosen a good career that I'm passionate about.