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Veteran continues life of service in the community thanks to TAFE NSW

TAFE NSW Ourimbah

Veteran continues life of service in the community thanks to TAFE NSW

As the National Skills Commission forecasts one of the highest expected growth rates over the next three years for the community service industry, TAFE NSW is meeting this growing skills need by delivering a pipeline of workers at a particularly critical time for the sector.

The NSW Government is continuing its focus on improving access to more community-based services and support, as well as embedding lived experience, and TAFE NSW is responding with training that equips students with the skills they need to forge a career in the sector.

TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Community Services, Patricia Griffin, said students were encouraged to draw upon their own experiences.

“Our collective resilience has been impacted by the global pandemic, and there are many other significant social and economic factors impacting communities on a local level. Our TAFE NSW students get hands-on experience with case management through lots of role-play, as well as work placements, and many of them incorporate lived experience into their communication strategies,” Ms Griffin said.

TAFE NSW Ourimbah Diploma of Community Services student, Jack Brown, draws on his time in the Defence Force in his practical studies.

“Increasing awareness of mental health conditions is so important amongst veterans to combat stigma, and increasing awareness of veterans’ issues in the community is equally as important. At TAFE NSW, I’ve learned that finding common ground with people is one of the most effective strategies in community services.”

Jack, 34, achieved a Certificate III in Automotive Refinishing at TAFE NSW and worked in this industry for 9 years before seeking a career change.

“I felt like I wanted to take my career further and I was accepted into the army. I sustained an injury and was discharged after five years, and my own mental health suffered as a result. I was working in security, which caused my injury to flare up, but I wasn’t sure what new career path to take.

“One of my colleagues, another ex-veteran who was doing peer support work with Open Arms, mentioned community services. I knew I was passionate about supporting people with mental health issues, so I followed his advice and enrolled at TAFE NSW. I’ve since achieved my Certificates III and IV in Community Services and I’m nearing completion of my Diploma,” Jack said.

Emma Donaldson is the Peer and Community Team Leader at Open Arms, which has been providing counselling and mental health support to veterans and their immediate families for over 40 years. She said their clients’ access to skilled case workers was vital.

“Defence life and service, for both workers and their families, brings with it a unique set of circumstances and experiences. This makes access to skilled case workers so important for their mental health and wellbeing – during service, transitioning from service, and after service.

“Mental health support isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue, and we need to support advocacy and recovery with different options and approaches. TAFE NSW delivers the training we look for across a range of disciplines, including peer workers and case workers, and Open Arms highly values workers with an understanding of military life,” Ms Donaldson said.

Jack credits the support he received at TAFE NSW for getting him this far.

“I had some challenges with my mental and physical health during my studies and, if it wasn’t for the support I received from my TAFE NSW teachers, I may have dropped out. Now, I’m so close to finishing and so much closer to achieving my dream role with Open Arms.”

Media contact: Emily Graham, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, 02 7921 3756.