Families benefit from veterans study pathway

Australian Catholic University

A higher education pathway has been widened from veterans to their families as part of an Australian Catholic University commitment to the health and welfare of serving and ex-defence force personnel.

For the first time, immediate family members of current and former Australian Defence Force personnel can access ACU’s Veteran Entry Program (VEP), an initiative that recognises rank and service on applications for undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

In extending the ground-breaking program to immediate family members, the university has recognised the impact on families of the atypical nature of defence employment.

“ACU stands for the veterans who’ve stood for this country,” ACU Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Zlatko Skrbis said. “That abiding commitment to veterans includes an outstretched hand to spouses, partners and children who’ve also made sacrifices in support of their loved ones’ ADF careers.”

Care for veterans’ health and welfare should not be confined to their period of service. Regional and international postings, deployments and irregular work hours can limit the employment opportunities and study goals of military personnel and their families.

A 2019 ADF Families Survey Report revealed about half of the ADF’s 60,000 fulltime members were either married or in a de-facto relationship. More than 50 per cent of those surveyed felt their employment or education opportunities have been negatively affected by their partner’s ADF service.

The survey also highlighted the importance of civilian partner employment and children’s education.

Celtic singer Ella Roberts followed her partner, a former combat engineer, from the New South Wales Central Coast to ACU’s Brisbane campus when he commenced a Bachelor of Paramedicine degree at the beginning of 2021.

With the coronavirus pandemic impacting heavily on her employment opportunities, she applied via VEP and will begin studying paramedicine at ACU next month.

“When Covid-19 hit I had to reassess my career choices,” Ms Roberts said. “Mum was a nurse so I had a natural pull towards a career in health.

“The amount of support we’ve had from the university has been amazing and I feel like this will give us a lot more stability.”

Professor Skrbis said: “Loss of identity and the peripatetic nature of ADF employment are just some of the steep challenges faced by the veteran community as they pursue personal and professional development,” “I’m delighted this extension of the VEP makes it easier for those families to navigate the application process.”

The VEP for families initiative comes as ACU appointed defence veteran Andrew Condon as the university’s first Industry Professor Veterans and Their Families.

It is the first appointment of its kind at ACU and the latest addition to the university’s suite of initiatives aimed at supporting veterans to post-service career pathways in their transition to civilian life.

The new role will identify strategic partnering, collaboration and funding opportunities across education, research, and impact locally and internationally.

Mr Condon has held high-profile leadership and management roles across engineering, defence, social and welfare services, aged care, and sports administration and has significant experience in agriculture.

His 27-year career in the Australian Regular Army included several civil secondments – as an engineer with a missile manufacturer in West Germany; a design engineer with Jaguar Rover Australia and 12-months as a Visiting Fellow to Sydney University.

In the 2007 Queens Birthday honours list, he was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross for his role as the Commander of the Australian Defence Force Joint Task Force that deployed to the Mediterranean to support the evacuation of over 5000 Australian nationals from Lebanon during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

He saw active service when assigned to a US Corps Headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq on a six-month deployment in 2004, and had shorter operational visits to Timor, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Sinai and Sudan.

How VEP for families works

Direct applications for veterans’ immediate families is available now. The application includes a written statement outlining motivation to study, desired field of study and addressing eligibility criteria (relationship to service member etc.).

Successful applicants will be interviewed by an academic staff member from the relevant faculty, and a professional staff member (Student Veteran Services representative). Interviews will be conducted in a low stress environment for assessment of applicant’s ability to complete study.

Offers would be made directly to the applicant at the appropriate course level. Places would be offered on a capped basis for competitive courses.

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