by Ashayla Ramsay
WHEN a soldier goes to war, we don’t question whether they are capable of defending this land. We don’t question if they can utilise their rifle to its intended purpose. We don’t question their skills or their dedication.
But when they leave the Defence Force, their years of dedicated training are not enough. They remove their uniforms and, suddenly, they’re simply not good enough to work in the civilian realm.
This is a battle many servicemen and women face when they transition. This is the battle Karyn Hinder watched many of her friends and colleagues fight again and again. Labelled ‘damaged goods’, these very Veterans have resorted to omitting their years’ in Defence from their resume. Labelling this work as being from a ‘government department’.
“We’re all ‘broken down old crocks’. We’re ‘has-beens’, we’ve ‘got a lot of baggage’. Therefore we’re unemployable … they don’t want to touch us. It’s unfortunate, because not everyone has those issues. Certainly I don’t,” a fellow Veteran told Karyn.
This Veteran is far from alone. The Veteran unemployment rate in Western Australia sits at 30 percent – five times’ the civilian unemployment rate. On top of this, 19 percent of Veterans working in the civilian realm are underemployed, forced to take whatever income comes their way, lest they be forced to seek the dole.
Karyn served for 25 years in the Australian Defence Force, wearing the uniform of both the Army and Royal Australian Air Force. After watching a close friend struggle with mental health issues as she was unable to gain employment, despite her qualifications and extensive experience in Defence, Karyn spotted a serious gap in the market to assist those seeking to leave the armed forces.
Determined to make businesses see the value of Veterans as employees, she began a small company named Working Spirit.
“They can think on their feet. They are all-rounders. They get on well with people and they like to achieve the end goal,” Karyn said of her fellow Veterans, “they exhibit teamwork, leadership, loyalty, they just don’t know how to sell themselves.”
The current help available to those seeking to transition is a simple two-day seminar. Two days to rewrite years of indoctrination, to translate a resume spanning multiple deployments, moves, ranks and roles to something a civilian or recruitment agency algorithm can understand. Just two days to teach people who are all about ‘team’ to become a ‘me’. In the military, you are trained in specialised skills for a specialised job and sometimes those skills are not translatable to a non-military setting.
Defence takes on normal human beings and makes them exceptional. However, the Defence Force is not taking the time to reprogram these exceptional people to a life on the home front.
“We’re the ones who are trying to get into the civilian world. It’s up to us to adapt,” but the skills required to adapt are not being taught.
Two days is simply not enough. Some do not even receive that. Of her last day, Karyn remembers: “I got nothing on my last day. Not a thanks. Nothing.”
Through Working Spirit, Karyn assists service personnel to redefine their resumes, practice for interviews, dress to impress and learn other skills required to survive in the civilian realm.
Her latest endeavour, WOVEN (Women Veterans Employment Network), is centred upon the unique needs of female veterans, and the experiences they can bring to employers.
“Unlike any other industry, female Veterans have the most comprehensive leadership training and tested experience,” Karyn tells businesses, “we are physically and mentally resilient, adaptive and agile.”
Female veterans, especially mothers such as Karyn, have completed tasks that most women will never have the opportunity to experience. They have been far from home, and their children, and have an unparalleled level of education and training behind.
RSLWA is proud to support Karyn in her endeavour to assist veterans to find civilian employment.