The untold story: Women veterans on ANZAC Day

As we approach ANZAC Day, Sunshine Coast Veteran Krishell Ennis hopes that time can be taken to highlight the support structures available to fellow female veterans along their transition back to civilian life.

Ms. Ennis hopes that by sharing her own struggles, other veterans will navigate the experience a little easier.

Joining the navy when she was 22 years old, Ms. Ennis served for nine years as a communications information systems sailor.

Like many other veterans, Ms. Ennis found it difficult to find her footing after rejoining civilian life in 2013.\

“I think the biggest issue when I left, and I think it’s still that way today, is the transition between military and civilian world,” Ms. Ennis said.

“There is no explanation of your skills and what sort of job you can now go for.

“You have to fumble around a lot.”

Ms. Ennis emphasises the mental toll that this struggle can take, and how it can make veterans feel as if no-one wants to give them a chance.

“Getting my first job, it was hard… I was unemployed for ages,” Ms. Ennis said.

“You end up thinking maybe I should just go back [to service] because as far as I know I have all these skills, but no-one wants to give me a job.”

Ms. Ennis believes that it is not lack of services that is causing veterans to feel alone, but instead the lack of information about where to find the right services in an already overwhelming process.

“There is no little handy pack that says where you can go when you leave,” Ms. Ennis said.

“If you are feeling isolated, especially with mental health, there is nothing that says who your contacts are.

“Even one little sheet of paper would make a huge difference.”

Ms. Ennis says that making this information readily available will help veterans to be able to easily access services before they may begin to feel isolated or overwhelmed.

Ms. Ennis specifically hopes to stress this to young female veterans, who she believes can often be especially isolated upon their return.

Speaking of a wellness group she helped create for fellow female veterans, she noticed the importance of making sure that everyone felt included.

“We had women who had not really been engaged and had just looked at programs and events,” Ms. Ennis said.

“They came to our wellness event and were saying ‘This is the first thing I have come to’ and it was just wonderful to see that we could engage those who otherwise may have been isolated.”

Ms. Ennis pinpoints connection for all veterans as one of the most important factors in successful reintegration.

“It’s hugely important for people to still connect, it’s the disconnect that makes a lot of problems,” Ms. Ennis said.

“It’s important for people to know who you are so if you’re not doing well, we can tell.

“If someone isn’t commenting on the page or they’re speaking negatively, you will be able to know what is out of character.”

Ms. Ennis highlights STEPS Young Veterans Support Program as one of the important available resources to veterans.

The program provides specialised employment support, from helping to identify career pathways, translating military experience into applicable workplace skills, and providing support for how to excel in your new role.

Ms. Ennis specifically credits the importance of the program’s consultants having lived experience.

“You can talk to them in a different way knowing that they’ll understand, you feel like you don’t have to filter and they’re really open and sharing,” Ms. Ennis said.

“They have been so encouraging.”

Ms. Ennis approached the program to undertake a community services diploma and was grateful to feel involved and valued in the process.

“I wanted to start doing a community services diploma and they were so helpful,” Ms. Ennis detailed.

“It was amazing to have someone say ‘hey, we could help you’, rather than just directing you to a website or getting you to do something online.”

“It’s personal, you’re not just another number because no-one wants to be just another number.”

Ms. Ennis hopes that accessing these programs will become standard for veterans and wishes to see a more positive shift in the experience of all veterans.

“Put yourself out there to engage with others and know that there is always the support and help available to you,” Ms. Ennis concludes.

“Never feel like you’re alone and you have got nowhere to go to.”

If you or someone you know could benefit from the STEPS Young Veterans Support Program, speak to one of our veteran support consultants today on 5453 8700 or email youngvets@stepsgroup.com.au. More information can be found at stepsemploymentsolutions.com.au.

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