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RAISING HOPE: How TAFE NSW helped Monique confront the 'invisible enemy'

TAFE NSW Cootamundra

RAISING HOPE: How TAFE NSW helped Monique confront the 'invisible enemy'

MOVING FORWARD: Cootamundra's Monique Cullen says her time at TAFE NSW has helped build her confidence and improve her service-related PTSD.

14 September, 2020

A former Australian Army medic who is living with service-related PTSD has credited TAFE NSW for helping her rediscover the joy of learning and reintegrate back into society.

Cootamundra’s Monique Cullen, who had five overseas deployments during her time with the Australian Defence Force (ADF), is now completing her third TAFE NSW qualification and hopes to ultimately study a Bachelor of Applied Commerce Majoring in Accounting at TAFE NSW.

Ms Cullen, 44, said it was a vastly different story when she returned from service in Iraq in 2005, admitting the prospect of leaving the house, let alone attending classes at a TAFE NSW campus, seemed overwhelming.

“Everything I knew just fell apart when I returned, I didn’t know who I was,” she said. “There was this crippling social anxiety and fatigue; even the thought of brushing my teeth or having a shower seemed too much.”

It is estimated about 8.3 per cent of ADF personnel have experience PTSD in the past 12 months, almost twice the rate of the general population.

Determined to move forward, Ms Cullen enrolled in a Certificate III in Business at TAFE NSW Cootamundra in 2015.

“At first, it wasn’t about training to get a job, it was just about getting out of the house and connecting with people,” she said. “In the end, I really surprised myself and thrived.”

Ms Cullen was awarded Business Services Student of the Year for TAFE NSW Cootamundra in 2015 and in 2018 enrolled in a Certificate III in Business Administration (Legal) at TAFE NSW Young. She was crowned Outstanding Student of the Year and is has since completed a Certificate IV in Business Administration and is now studying a Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping, with plans to progress to a Bachelor of Applied Commerce Majoring in Accounting and seek work as an accountant.

“It’s been a life-changing experience and the teachers are so amazing, they always treated me as an equal, not a victim,” Ms Cullen said. “The TAFE NSW support services were incredible and they did everuthing they could to listen to me and reassure me.”

TAFE NSW offers student support services to all enrolled students at no cost, including counselling and career advice, library support, support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners, and support for students with a disability.

TAFE NSW Student Support Services Manager Sharee McCormack said “Our qualified and experienced student support staff are available to assist each student during their studies, put in place internal support or refer to external specialised support.

“Our aim is to assist so that all students have the capacity to successfully complete their study by removing any barriers for this to happen.”

To find out more about studying at TAFE NSW, phone 13 16 01 or visit

Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Media and Communications – Business Partner, 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428.