Defence statement to SBS Insight on transition support
15 August 2017
Defence welcomes SBS Insight’s interest in this matter and the efforts being made to encourage measured and constructive discussion on what is a very important topic for all those in the defence community.
Defence recognises that leaving the military is a significant life changing event for many Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and their families. As such we are continuing to enhance and improve the support we provide before, during and after transition.
In partnership with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), Defence is committed to ensuring that ADF members and their families are provided with comprehensive and effective support services, not only throughout their military service but also when they leave the ADF.
Each year about 5,500 people go through the transition process; whether voluntarily in pursuit of other opportunities, at retirement or the end of their formal engagement, or prematurely for health or family reasons or due to unforeseen circumstances.
All of these members will access the Transition Support Services delivered by a team of ADF Transition Officers located across 13 ADF Transition Centres nationally to support and prepare all ADF members for their transition. This is now a mandatory part of the transition process for all permanent members, Reserve members undertaking Continuous Full Time Service and ADF Gap Year participants so they are aware of the transition process, their administrative requirements and the support services available.
Further to this ADF members and their families can attend an ADF Transition Seminar at any time during their career, with many attending more than one depending on their circumstances. Around 23 two-day seminars designed to help the member and their family prepare for transition are held nationally throughout the year and provide information from Defence and other supporting agencies on topics including finance and superannuation, health and wellbeing, relocating, employment, and ex-service organisation support.
The support available to ADF members is multi-faceted and focused on the member throughout their employment in the ADF, through the transition process and after they have left the Defence organisation.
Defence does not provide this support in isolation; we form part of a whole-of-government effort to enhance services and promote their availability to all who might need them. The work being done in relation to mental health, both within Defence and across the broader community, is a case in point.
Defence is a sub-section of society and our members face the same issues that affect the broader Australian community. But of course there are also specific challenges that they may encounter due to the nature of military service.
That’s why, in addition to what is available in the broader community, Defence has services tailored specifically for ADF members and their families. Our approach looks beyond the obvious health elements to include the responsibilities and roles of commanders, leaders and ADF members themselves in promoting good mental health, preventing suicide and self-harm, and encouraging their colleagues and mates to reach out for support.
During the transition process Defence is also increasingly targeting its efforts towards those most in need based on criteria such as continuity of healthcare, finding employment and social connectedness. While these considerations are important for all, they are more critical for a smaller percentage of members with health considerations (including mental health difficulties) regardless of whether those issues are directly related to military service.
Health support is provided to ADF members to ensure timely and accurate handover of health information to civilian health care services (such as general practitioners) and, if relevant, the rehabilitation, compensation and other health care services available through DVA. To enhance this process, Defence has been working closely with DVA and the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation to streamline the medical processes prior to transition. A Single Medical Assessment Process has been developed to ensure that all three areas have adequate and accurate health information prior to transition, so that all individuals can be provided with their required level of support when re-entering the civilian world. The new concept will be trialled later this year and implementation is planned in 2018.
This is in addition to the DVA On-Base Advisory Service which is already available in location to ADF members while transitioning to provide information on entitlements, help identify potential needs, facilitate access to DVA services and assist with lodging claims. Work is under way to enhance this existing service, which includes building stronger working ties with ex-service organisations to allow them to also connect with and support ADF members during transition.
Employment and training
In Defence we are working hard to enhance the continuum of support which begins at recruitment, continues throughout a member’s military career and carries on into their post military life.
The Government recognises the importance of ensuring ADF members who are transitioning from the military have access to meaningful employment opportunities and the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program announced in November 2016 is a great example of this.
But the transition process does not begin the day it is determined a member is leaving the ADF. Defence provides the opportunity for ADF members to benefit from a range of education, accreditation and training designed to develop the individual throughout their career and prepare them for opportunities both in the ADF and when they leave the military. Defence partners with academic institutions to provide the best education in relevant and specialised fields. Defence also has four Registered Training Organisations that have operated since 1994 to deliver qualifications and units of competency against nationally recognised industry standards.
This includes trade training for Defence apprentices in key trade areas and the qualifications are all nationally recognised from national training packages. Most are civilian qualifications with a small number providing Defence specific qualifications from the Defence Training Package which is also nationally accredited and available on the national vocational education and training (VET) register (www.training.gov.au).
In addition, Defence is currently represented on 12 national Industry Reference committees, under the current VET System, providing input and advice to the review and maintenance of civilian qualifications relevant to Defence capability areas. Defence is currently providing support to eight national VET qualification reviews with another three reviews to commence in August.
Separately, Defence and DVA provide a number of support programs to assist transitioning members to secure employment through training and financial support. The Career Transition Assistance Scheme (CTAS) is one such program and is a condition of Service under the Defence Act 1903.
CTAS is available to all permanent members of the ADF and eligible Reservists. A member can access CTAS 12 months before and up to 12 months after their transition date. CTAS services include job search preparation workshops, career management coaching, résumé coaching, approved leave to undertake job search activity, and financial counselling.
Despite the positive initiatives in place, Defence acknowledges that the experiences of those who have left the ADF are often varied. That is why forums like the one facilitated by SBS Insight are so important, because they help to inform and enable the continuous improvement of the services available.
In recent times Defence has implemented a number of reforms which includes new mechanisms to ensure that every individual separating from the ADF does so with appropriate separation ‘discharge’ documentation; a realignment of the ADF Transition Service business model to focus more on providing coaching and mentoring support for members in the 12 months after they separate from the ADF; and initiatives that encourage family participation and acknowledge the vital role they play in supporting ADF members.
We are also working with DVA to implement an Early Engagement Model, which will allow DVA to establish a relationship with a member as early as possible and receive notification of critical events that might occur during a member’s career.
In summary, there is significant support available to ADF members who are transitioning back to civilian life. Transition is an important step during a career and Defence places high priority on helping individuals and their families. The support detailed above is considerably more than what is provided by other Australian employers, and it is in line with world’s best practice.
However this certainly does not mean we can relax our commitment to this issue. Our focus going forward is not only on ensuring services are in place but also that they are connected, that people are aware of them, and that they know how to access support.
With this in mind, the Government has established a Transition Taskforce to examine the experiences of ADF members and their families as they leave the ADF, in order to identify and address any real or perceived barriers to effective transition.
This is important work and Defence is grateful to SBS Insight for helping to highlight how we are focused on developing and refining the transition process to better meet the needs of the individual.
The Defence All-hours Support Line (ASL) is a confidential telephone service for ADF members and their families that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 1800 628 036.
Crisis support and confidential counselling is also available by calling the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) on 1800 011 046.