I have been banging on for the last few blog posts about the need to change the narrative around disability and areas where we believe the support provided by the Government can improve. This month I’m going to talk about one of our other candidate groups that is very close to my heart. As the granddaughter of a Major in the Australian Army, I had seen all too often the impacts from the latest conflicts and was very aware of the difference a job could make for someone who was transitioning out of service.
Helping our Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel and their families to find employment was the first area we expanded our services to from people with a disability and I could not be more proud of the work the Enabled Employment team has done to get our people into jobs. Since January 1 2017, not only have we advertised 170 jobs to our candidate groups from the fantastic businesses we work with, we have put 29 ex-ADF personnel and their families into jobs in the last two months alone. This is real results, and has in some circumstances, been life changing for the people we are supporting.
I wanted to touch on today, why we believe this is such an important area for us to focus on and why we run our business privately rather than as a charity or reliant on Government funding.
Why employ our veterans?
1999 was a turning point for the ADF, with an overseas conflict deployment of more than five thousand troops to Timor, the largest since the Vietnam War. In the following eight years the ADF experienced the largest period of operational activity in more than a decade. In 2001, Afghanistan came in to the mix and from this deployment, along with The War in Iraq (2003 – 2007), we saw the need for our ADF to be involved in two active Global theatres of conflict, on top of other multiple operational peacekeeping and peacekeeping requirements.
At the same time, ADF personnel were increasingly the first we called on for domestic and regional assistance due to natural disasters and national initiatives, increasing the tempo on all personnel. As a consequence, we now have many young veterans who have seen multiple deployments of 6-8 months, in multiple theatres of operations, including conflict and relief assistance & peacekeeping roles. We have a young generation of veterans and their families, who have seen an extraordinary service tempo in diverse and different theatres, requiring multiple absences from home and family.
To date we still have troops on Operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Lebanon, Egypt, South Sudan, the Middle East Region, The South West Pacific, South China Sea/Indian Ocean and on Border Protection duties.
We have sent our serving men and women into danger, where they have faced innumerable threats to their person, and where some have been killed or injured while serving our country whilst many have been impacted in some way by their service. Whether or not their mission was peacekeeping or relief assistance, domestic or global, the results are similar; and today we continue to send them.
How we look after our servicemen and women when they leave the Australian Defence Force is a mark of how we, as a society, respect the personal sacrifice they have made through their desire to serve community on behalf of our country.
Why is Enabled Employment assisting ADF veterans into work?
We see employment opportunities as a vital part of looking after our servicemen and women, and supporting their families. A job contributes to continued mental health by providing an income, a structured activity, a sense of purpose and personal worth and social contact. A job goes a long way towards maintaining physical and mental good health, preventing marriage and family breakdowns, combating known problems such as veteran homelessness and/or declining mental health. Finding and providing assistance to access the right conditions for work for all veterans should be a community obligation in recognition in their service on our behalf. After all, they have some of the most amazing skills, have demonstrated leadership and followership, and have a dedication that is an asset to anyone.
And for families of serving men and women, who routinely hold down the homefront during those times of absences, enduring stress over their loved ones, as well as moving multiple times with their spouse or parent on posting; we recognise the disruption to careers and study. We are family members of former serving personnel, and our own experiences have shown us the difficulty faced by family members seeking work when an employer looks at your chequered employment history, often assuming you won’t be in the job for long because your partner or parent will be posted again.
Our model of business
Enabled Employment uses positive discrimination and operates as a private company. That means we have an outcome based model – if we don’t put people into work – we don’t survive as a business. This gives us an urgent imperative to ensure we find work for the ex-ADF personnel and their family members who sign up as candidates.
We respect the right of ADF veterans to have a legitimate employment service which does not rely on government funding, nor charity donations but provides a service grounded on actions and outcomes, not inputs and outputs, which respects the career of every individual. We have chosen a business model that charges employers for a legitimate service that demands results, and employers who advertise through us understand that employing ADF personnel makes good business sense because of the skills and leadership qualities they have.
We know ADF personnel and their family members are proud of their service, and we believe it should not be a charity donation to employ an ex-serviceman or woman, but a valued privilege. We can see that people are having difficulty with the transition from military to civilian life, and we want to ensure there are job opportunities available with inclusive employers.
But doesn’t the government look after our ex-ADF?
The federal government’s recent policy initiative to promote the inclusion of ex-ADF members in employment was nothing more than a promise that:
If you disclose you are ex-ADF that you will be interviewed for a job in the Australian Public Service if you apply for one.
Like the ‘disclosure’ idea for people with a disability applying for jobs in the Australian Public Service guaranteeing an interview – all it does is increase disclosure rates and ensure bean counting is possible so the government can tick a box saying it is doing ‘something’ about veteran employment. It doesn’t increase the likelihood that ex-ADF personnel will get a job.
What can we as a nation do now?
The conditions of service of an Australian Defence Force personnel member who is transitioning to a civilian career are not all publicly available. Anecdotal evidence from some former ADF and their family members indicates that they aren’t aware of all their entitlements when transitioning often because they can’t access them in a format compatible with their work computers.
And if they do try to access them, the paperwork can take months, bogged down in a bureaucratic process which doesn’t measure successful outcomes reflecting how many transitioning ADF have been assisted, but measures how much money was spent by the department for their annual reporting against key performance indicators which are funding based, not person centric. While there are no caps on funding, in an economy with a ballooning budget deficit, the pressure is, after all, on saving government expenditure.
What we do know, is serving personnel who are transitioning to the civilian workforce are entitled to the following:
- Less than 12 years of service.
- Two day Job Search Preparation course, 2 hours one-on-one coaching, 5 days approved absence.
- 12 to less than 18 years of service.
- Two day Job Search Preparation course, 2 hours one-on-one coaching, up to $1,000 Career Transition Training, or $1,100 Career Transition Management Coaching and 10 days Approved Absence.
- 18 or more years of service, or Compulsory Retirement Age irrespective of length of service.
- Up to $5,320 Career Transition Training or $2,820 Career Transition Management Coaching (CTMC), $253 CV coaching and 23 days Approved Absence.
- Medically Discharged
- Up to $5,320 Career Transition Training, $2,820 Career Transition Management Coaching, $253 CV Coaching, and 23 days Approved Absence.
The Defence Transition Handbook, which you can find here http://www.defence.gov.au/DCO/_Master/documents/Transition/ADF-Transition-Handbook.pdf is a publicly available document which outlines some of the entitlements due to the ADF upon leaving service.
Where to in the future?
We want to see the issue of employment for former ADF members raised into the public spotlight. We are focussing our efforts on changing the narrative around jobs for our ADF personnel post service with employers, as we have the conversation with them one by one, or from a public platform.
We believe employing our ADF members post service should be a clear policy from business, and governments. Our focus remains outcomes and impact based, finding the jobs and putting former ADF personnel and their family members into meaningful work. But we will also take every opportunity we can to ensure we keep the conversation public, constructive, and respectful of those who have served Australia. To do otherwise, as a society, is to dishonour the sacrifice and service of ADF members, and their supporting family.