Kerri-Ann Woodbury

Kerri-Ann went from serving in the Army as a Nursing Officer for five years to doing her PhD at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) where she continues making a difference.

24 July 2020

Kerri-Ann joined the Australian Army in 2007 and served as a Nursing Officer at the rank of a Captain. In 2012 she left the Australian Defence Force (ADF) due to conflicting family needs.

Having a nursing qualification, Kerri-Ann felt that it would allow her to transfer more easily to civilian employment. Prior to transitioning, Kerri-Ann had ensured she had a solid job offer and this led her to move directly from the ADF to a position at QUT.

Reflecting on her military career, Kerri-Ann says, “I very much enjoyed my time in the Army. I got to go places and do things that I would never have otherwise been able to do. I made friendships that will last a lifetime. I still think about it as, in my current job, I remain engaged with Defence.”

Looking back on transition

A woman, named Kerri-Ann Woodbury, smiling and wearing Australian Army camouflage uniform with her hair tied back in a bun. She is standing in an office environment.

Speaking about her transition journey, Kerri-Ann explained, “I know that every person’s experience of transition is different: we all leave for different reasons, and this has a large impact on the way we experience transition. I was able to leave on my own terms, at a time of my choosing, for reasons I was completely comfortable with. Combined with the fact that I had a job to go to, this made my personal transition experience quite easy. I acknowledge that this is not the case for everyone and appreciate that I was very fortunate.”

Kerri-Ann says the biggest challenge she personally faced was finding employment that she was happy to leave Defence for. “I made the decision to leave Defence, and knew that as a parent I needed to be able to support myself and my family. To that end, I took the time I needed to find suitable employment before transitioning. It took me 9 months to find a job that I was willing to leave Defence for.”

Family and friends were very important to Kerri-Ann’s transition. “Defence is quite an insular subculture and returning to a civilian workplace after several years in Defence was initially challenging.” Kerri-Ann noted making new friends and support networks outside of Defence helped her find her new normal.

Kerri-Ann’s advice to transitioning members is to, “just remember that you cannot compare your transition to another person ¬— each of us left for our own reasons; some good, some not so good. Finding your new normal can take time, but there is support out there to help and guide you through. Do not be afraid to seek support.”

After the ADF

A woman, named Kerri-Ann Woodbury, taking a selfie in her home. She is wearing earrings, a black patterned top and has her hair tied back in a bun.

Kerri-Ann currently works as a Course Coordinator for Paramedic Science at QUT where she has worked since her transition. When asked if she has used the skills and experience learnt in the ADF in her current job, Kerri-Ann responded — “Absolutely! The leadership, management skills, and self-confidence that were honed in Defence are all very well regarded in my current role.”

Kerri-Ann is also completing her PhD where she is has been studying the impact of deployment on the intimate relationships of Australian Army personnel and their loved ones.

As a naturally goal-driven person, it was important for Kerri-Ann to find her ‘why’ in her new workplace. In her current role as a Course Coordinator as well as with her PhD research, she feels she is continuing to make a difference.

Kerri-Ann has had some major achievements since leaving the ADF, including:

  • receiving the 2017 QUT Engagement Innovation Grant
  • 2019 Academic of the Year finalist at the Australian Defence Industry Awards
  • running the first QUT & Military: Future health directions symposium
  • recipient of the 2018 Returned Services League (RSL) Queensland ex-service personnel education scholarship; and
  • 2017 recipient of QUT Vice-Chancellor’s performance (individual) award.

Kerri-Ann remains driven to make a difference and has set herself a number of goals, including completing her PhD and translating her findings into usable content for ADF personnel and their loved ones. She plans to continue educating paramedic science students and extend her role in tertiary education and research.