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Employers large and small are waking up to the opportunity to harness veteran talent

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Suncorp employee and veteran, Ben Dullroy, who grew up on the Sunshine Coast, helps bring the issue to light.

 

This Remembrance Day we need to do more than just remember. Veterans are after opportunities to continue to contribute to our community, not just your thoughts and prayers.

For the first time, the 2021 census included questions to capture information about Australia’s Veteran population. While the Department of Veterans Affairs had 247,000 Veterans registered, the census revealed that there are over 581,139 Australian Defence Force Veterans in our community. What the census data also tells us is the Sunshine Coast has the largest Veteran population of any region without a major Defence base. With 12,485 Veterans on the Sunshine Coast, we are close to matching the Gold Coast’s 13,036 Veterans despite the significant difference in population size between our two regions.

I left the Sunshine Coast at 17 to join the Army, and since returning home in 2021 I have been amazed to see how many young Veterans are choosing to make the move to the Coast after they’ve finished full-time service. There are also many Sunshine Coast locals serving in the Reserves – despite only having a single small Army Reserve depot in Yandina the census revealed that there are over 500 actively serving members of the Australian Defence Force in our community.

Ben Dullroy.

Most people think of a Veteran as being a retired digger down at the local sub-branch of the RSL. While that is true for a number of Veterans here on the Coast, increasingly Veterans are also men and women in their mid to late 20s looking for their next career. Over 6000 personnel leave the Australian Defence Force every year and 60 per cent of these Veterans served for less than 10 years. Rather than signing up for life, the majority of Veterans build the foundation for their careers in the military and then seek to find their next challenge as a civilian.

Increasingly, employers large and small are waking up to the opportunity to harness Veteran talent and often it is Veteran employees or Veteran business owners who are leading the charge. My own employer Suncorp has established an employee resource group that I co-chair which supports Defence, emergency services, and their families. Suncorp has partnered with RSL Queensland’s award-winning Employment Program to increase the opportunity for Veterans and Defence family members to work with Queensland’s largest publicly listed company.

Many employers would jump at the opportunity to employ Veterans but don’t know where to start. A clear way employers can signal their support is by joining the many organisations, including Suncorp, who have signed the Veterans’ Employment Commitment. The Commitment is an initiative of the Department of Veteran Affairs’ Prime Minister’s Veterans Employment Program. In addition to the commitment, this program also runs the Prime Minister’s National Employment Awards. These annual awards recognise employers that make outstanding contributions to the employment of Veterans and also celebrate the achievements of Veterans and Defence family members in the workforce.

Here on the Sunshine Coast, momentum is also building to support Veterans in developing skills for their next careers. The University of the Sunshine Coast has created a military academic pathway program for 2023, which is being led by Adrian McCallum, a Senior Lecturer and a Veteran. This program is being delivered in partnership with local veteran-owned business The Eighth Mile Consulting and aims to ease the transition for Student Veterans into full-time study. Local initiatives like this are the ideal way for the Sunshine Coast to capitalise on our large and growing Veteran community.

So I’d like to finish by issuing a challenge. Observing a moment of silence at 11am on Friday is appreciated, as is a donation to one of the many worthy charities serving Veterans and our families. But if your workplace isn’t already offering employment opportunities to Veterans and Defence family members, why don’t you do more than just remember?

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