Photos: RSL Victoria and the office of Veterans' Affairs Minister the Hon. Andrew Gee MP

Preparing for, obtaining, and maintaining employment can be challenging, and for the veteran community it may come with extra hurdles.

However, a new, holistic approach to the journey is being offered through the RSL Victoria Veterans’ Employment Program (VEP).

Hating your job with a passion is hardly conducive to a happy life, as former Australian Defence Force member Russell* knows only too well. When he reached out to RSL Victoria to ask if he could access career coaching, it started to turn his life around.

Now, with RSL Victoria’s new look VEP, Russell is currently working on finding his new direction.

As part of the continuous improvement of programs and services, RSL Victoria’s VEP underwent some changes in late 2021. The VEP changed to a model focused on wellbeing, which is consistent with its approach in helping its clients access the best possible services to ensure they receive the best possible outcomes.

The program has also evolved to meet the broader needs of multi-generational ex-service personnel, their partners or immediate family.

RSL Victoria’s Health and Wellbeing Manager Wendy Bateman oversees the Victorian VEP. She says the program is about looking at a person’s needs as a whole, which is so much more than just getting someone a job.

The VEP considers what other supports, besides employment may be needed for the client.

“What’s their income? Do they need support while they go through the program? Are they qualified or do we need to get them the appropriate training? Have they got secure housing? Have they got a secure social network? What’s their health like?” says Wendy.

As part of the VEP, RSL Victoria’s Case Navigators work with clients to link them to the necessary supports and services they require, whether it be for compensation claims, welfare or socialisation.

Clients might also be linked the program’s new partner, Right Management, an organisation with over 40 years in career transitioning, career coaching and mentoring.

Louise Morrison is a Career Consultant with Right Management. She says it’s a rewarding job that can see her guide a client from a journey of self-discovery, through to being employed.

“It’s really important that what we do is not make people dependent on us or our service. That we can teach them, train them, empower them, equip them so they can go on and be self-sufficient in their lives.”

Wendy, Bateman believes it’s about giving clients the opportunity to gain life-skills that will see them through many varied situations they may come across, from the basics of writing a CV, interview coaching and the ability to apply for jobs.

The program also caters to those who may be looking for a career change, or even wanting to upskill or undergo professional development.

Louise Morrison says it’s a privilege to help clients work around their challenges.

"A lot of my military veterans will say ‘but I don’t have that qualification’, to which I say ‘that’s fine, we can organise for you to get the licence or diploma or cert 4."

Career Consultant Louise Morrison

While the Australian Defence Force invests in its personnel to provide them with a broad range of skills and experience, Louise says it’s not uncommon for veterans to underestimate their capabilities.

Having worked with a range of people with varying ranks and postings from across the Navy, Army and Air Force, Louise says it’s about coaching clients to value their military experience and work towards translating their skill-set into other fields of work.

"They have phenomenal skills from an absolutely unique environment"

Career Consultant Louise Morrison

“If you can show that degree of situational awareness, decision making, problem solving in a hazardous environment, and you can translate that into, for example, working in a small business in your local town, then you’re going to be great at it!”

Louise also says it’s also pleasing to be able to assist veterans’ immediate family member’s needs, too.

“You might be a spouse who has just landed in a new community and you’re finding your feet, you’re settling the kids, you’re trying to pick up a new career that fits around your military spouse.”

Wendy Bateman says while employers and workplaces have come a long way in their perception of veterans and their families, RSL Victoria’s VEP aims to continue breaking down barriers. She says lot of organisations are now realising what veterans can bring to a job.

Suzie Michaelis is the National Program Manager of the RSL Veterans’ Employment Program. She says RSL Victoria’s VEP is one of the strongest there is.

“Exceptional process, the synergies between all the complimentary supports and the employment support is excellent and the engagement with Right Management for individuals who need it is well managed. The team is dedicated, knowledgeable, collaborative, passionate and pro-active.”

The RSL’s VEP has received grant funding from the Australian Government, as part of a multi-million dollar package invested into initiatives conducted by not-for-profit organisations that are helping veterans access employment.

Vetarans' Affairs Minister Hon. Andrew Gee MP
Veterans' Affairs Minister Hon. Andrew Gee MP

"Employing veterans is a win-win. It’s good for businesses and it’s good for the veterans"

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Hon Andrew Gee MP

*name has been changed to maintain anonymity