This week, Insight speaks with veterans to see how prepared they were for civilian life and what can be done to make it easier.
James Hancock spent eight and a half years in the army after joining when he was just 17. He was hoping when he left that his training and experience would count for something, but it didn’t. He flew drones and did meteorological work during his two tours of Afghanistan but was unable to get a job when he was discharged.
Kiel Goodman was also deployed to Afghanistan but when he left the army he applied for around 150 jobs and only got two interviews. Unemployed, his life then spiraled out of control and he began using drugs and at one point was suicidal.
Brad Watts was a medic in the army for 11 years and despite being exposed to traumatic events, doesn’t suffer from PTSD. Around 16 per cent of veterans suffer from PTSD*. Brad says he planned his exit from the military for 12 months and walked straight into a job on an oil rig. He says planning and having a goal was key to his smooth transition out of the military.
Veterans groups say around 30 per cent of veterans in Australia are unemployed**. That’s much higher than the national unemployment rate of 5.6 per cent.
Some veterans say their problems are often made worse when applying for compensation with the Department of Veterans Affairs and that some claims have taken years to be processed and paid.
The RSL was once the place veterans turned to for support after their service, but that’s changed. There are now more than 3000 ex-service organisations and many veterans say the RSL is outdated and doesn’t represent the modern veteran.
“When I was 24 years old, my second tour of Afghanistan and I had … missions that were mine to plan, task and organise, I didn’t think that I’d be, I’d be pushing trolleys in a hospital five years later.”
“…to someone that used to be so proud of what they were doing … then getting out of the military and realizing you can’t get a job … that’s a massive, massive hit to your self-esteem.
“If we come to an RSL as a female and say we’re a veteran and we need support, that shouldn’t be questioned and that really needs to be drummed into every single sub-branch.”
“… I’d planned for it. I’d done a lot of study …while I was in the Army. I knew that one day I would get out of the Army and that I would need some sort of piece of paper behind me.”
“I think that there is a really strong rhetoric around the fact that veterans as a whole bring baggage. That there’s wide spread mental health issues … the numbers definitely do not reflect that.”
Senator Jacqui Lambie
Jenny Brockie: “Jacqui, what do you think of the RSL?”
Senator Lambie: “I don’t have a lot of nice things to say … They’ve lost their way, they did a long time ago.”
Tuesday at 8.30pm on SBS.