Former major finds her direction with help from Prince’s Trust Australia

by Courtney Snowden, ADF partner and Enterprise program alumna of Prince’s Trust Australia

This Anzac Day veteran Nicole Bradley will commemorate the sacrifices of her fellow servicemen and women while also marking two years since starting her own business with the help of Prince’s Trust Australia.

On 25 April 2020 the former logistics officer registered Nicole Bradley Counselling – something she couldn’t have imagined when she discharged from the Army in 2015.

Portrait photo of a smiling middle-aged woman

Nicole joined the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in 1993 and during her 22-year career deployed to East Timor and the Middle East, was posted to seven different locations and spent six months on Palm Island as part of the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Programme (AACAP).

But despite the skills and experience gained through two decades of service, being a mum of two and supporting her husband in his Army career, Nicole doubted her ability to find professional success outside of the ADF.

‘I didn't know I actually had anything to offer,’ she says.

The former major gravitated towards counselling, as she found her best results while in the ADF came from her work with people.

One career highlight was as a troop commander on AACAP in 2003 where she was able to help her soldiers through their personal struggles.

‘I felt I was really able to help them bridge some of their challenges and I ended up having a big welfare role in amongst those people,’ she says. ‘Even in the later parts of my career, as a 2IC of the Army School of Health, my office was like a revolving door where I'd have people just coming in to tell me their problems. [So becoming a counsellor] just seemed to be a natural fit.’

Nicole completed a graduate diploma in counselling and was undertaking a placement at a community service organisation when COVID hit. Because of the pandemic, she couldn’t return to her placement and the thought of applying for jobs was overwhelming.

‘I was searching for something else where I could forge my own path in a sense, but I didn’t have any plans for a business. There are very few people I know that have a business of their own and the concept of it was incredibly daunting.’

A friend told Nicole about Prince’s Trust Australia’s free Enterprise program, designed to help veterans and military spouses start and grow small businesses, and she decided to check it out.

Nicole went into the program with a ‘vague idea’ of what she could do, and a hope Prince’s Trust could prove her self-doubt wrong.

‘I found there was a real encouragement in that group,” she says. ‘I got to thinking about things I hadn't really considered, and I felt like (starting a business) wasn't that complicated in the end.

‘What I found in Prince's Trust is they draw this thread around all these skills you have in Defence that are usable outside. Skills I hadn't thought of because you just live it, you don't see it. And that woke me up to what I could offer others.’

Today Nicole Bradley Counselling provides one-on-one counselling to clients throughout Australia and New Zealand.

“The thing Prince's Trust does, once you leave the Defence Force, is give you this sense that you can still be important when you're not in the service,” she says.

“Very often the sense of who you are is so tied to the uniform that being reminded you're still important and you're still a value to the community outside of uniform is really comforting.”

Read the full article on the Prince’s Trust website and watch a YouTube video about Nicole’s journey.