Australia

After doing their duty, veterans struggle to find employment in regional areas

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Transitioning from military to civilian life can often be tough for veterans, especially when it comes to finding a job. But it's even more challenging for those living in regional Australia, where unemployment levels may be high.

Scott Martin is still scarred by the effects of his 25 years in the Royal Australian Navy.

The sailor saw colleagues die in the line of duty and was last year medically discharged, and diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

He said even the smallest things can upset him unexpectedly. 

"Anything can be a trigger: a crowd in a shopping centre. So you'll do things like shop on a Tuesday night at 12 o'clock, just to avoid that crowd," he told SBS News.

Since returning to his hometown in Shoalhaven, on the NSW south coast, he's been determined to get back on his feet.

Scott Martin (R) served in the Navy for more than 20 years.
Scott Martin (R) served in the Navy for more than 20 years.
SBS

But one of his biggest challenges is finding employment.

Three months on, he's still searching for a job, despite help from the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

"If you're not working, you're not really fitting back into where you've come from and that's where veterans get lost, and they find that their anxieties are higher," he said.

More than 5,500 people leave the Australian armed forces every year and many of them return to regional areas across Australia, where they often struggle to find work.

Veterans experience a far higher rate of unemployment and underemployment than the national average, particularly in the first months after their transition. 

Veterans' advocates, like Narooma RSL president Paul Naylor, say there's a lack of support in regional areas to help veterans find meaningful employment.

"I'd like to see more DVA regional officers. More mobile units going around. We used to have mobile units coming down from Wollongong, they'd let us know when they were coming and we'd let all the veterans know," he said.

Scott Martin was diagnosed with PTSD after leaving the Navy.
Scott Martin was diagnosed with PTSD after leaving the Navy.
SBS

Two years ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs launched a special program to connect with corporations, with almost 60 businesses signing up to the initiative.

But Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester admits more could be done to encourage regional businesses to invest in returning military personnel.

"The ADF does recruit very heavily out of regional areas so it's only natural that many of our veterans return to their regional communities," he said.

Minister for Veterans'€™ Affairs Darren Chester
Minister for Veterans'€™ Affairs Darren Chester.
SBS

“One of our challenges I think is making sure our communities understand the needs of returning veterans and it's important that we work with our communities in that regard, making sure our small business communities in those regional areas are open to hiring a veteran."

Mr Chester believes corporations are beginning to recognise the value of hiring veterans.

“But I'm not sure whether that success is getting down to small and medium-sized enterprises and I'm also not sure we're doing quite enough to encourage some of our veterans to do self-employment. The entrepreneurial spirit that I think many of them have. I think we could coach them more in that regard.”

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