After serving in the Australian Army for four years, Rob Goulden successfully transitioned to civilian life and now works as a community peer advisor for Open Arms in Western Australia. Despite his successful transition, Rob struggled moving so far away from his core support network and focused on trying to be the person he was pre-injury. His advice to other veterans is to not only have a plan A, but a plan B and C.
‘I actually never really wanted to join the [Australian Defence Force]. I initially wanted to join Victoria Police. At the time of application, there was an 18-month waiting list to get in. So a friend of a friend who just got back from Iraq said, while you're waiting, maybe look at joining the military. So I did that and signed up.’
Rob looks back on his time in the Army with pride, especially his deployment to Iraq in 2008 and the smaller projects he worked on.
After four years, Rob discharged from the Army with the hope that one day he could join the Police Force.
‘I always thought that I was transitioning really well and that it was an easy process. Now I see it through two different lenses. I feel like I was constantly telling myself that I'd transitioned well and it was a simple process and in a way I was quite fortunate that I've always found myself in good jobs. But I really did struggle too. I went through some mental health challenges along the way.
‘I didn't really have a plan for what I wanted to do besides my ultimate aim, which was the police force. But I knew I probably wasn't at the level to be able to do that. So I started off as a labouring supervisor. From there, I realised that it probably wasn't for me because I'm not the most handy of blokes.
‘So I applied for a graduate recruitment consultant position. I didn't know that graduate meant that you had to have done a degree. But I got the job because the owner of the company was an ex-South African Air Force officer and knew that some of the traits I have would be good for his company. So I did that for a couple of years. Then I moved on to become a finance broker, starting off as a trainee.
‘I had about five or six jobs in the nine years. But nothing that's really ever been something I can see myself doing long term.’
Supporting others through work
Rob began working as a community peer advisor for Open Arms in 2019.
‘So my role has two key functions. One of those is community engagement – getting to all of the different services that provide support to veterans and letting them know about our program and Open Arms in general and what we can offer to veterans.
‘The second function is peer support. So in conjunction with our counsellors at Open Arms, we are connecting with veterans and providing whatever peer support they may need. For some people it may require some help with the DVA system and navigating claims, for someone else who is isolated and really struggling, they might just appreciate having somebody to talk to who’s from a non-clinical background.
‘I feel like every job I've had post-military and even the job I do now involves using the skills I was taught in the military. Things like time management, organisation, discipline, not letting the team down.’
Make a plan
‘If I think about where I am now post-military, I'm married, I've got two young daughters, I own a property and have an investment and life is in a really good space at the moment. But it wasn't always like that. Having a plan for what I wanted to do and then finding out that I'm not going to be able to do that – I really struggled with accepting that.’
‘My advice to anybody who’s transitioning is, make a plan, put a lot of focus into that plan and a lot of thought behind it. But don't beat yourself up when it doesn't happen the way you plan. Don't beat yourself up when you get a knock-back. So have a plan, but also have a plan B and a plan C.’