Project to help young military veterans succeed at uni


CDU Professor in Education (Research), Sue Shore and researcher Hannah Taino-Spick are examining veterans pursuing higher education and their experiences

CDU Professor in Education (Research), Sue Shore and researcher Hannah Taino-Spick are examining veterans pursuing higher education and their experiences

Charles Darwin University (CDU) is taking part in a national project to increase support for younger military student veterans in Australian higher education.

The project builds on findings from previous research led by La Trobe University’s Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity (CHEEDR), with the Australian Student Veterans’ Association. A key finding of that project was that most student veterans were not identified within higher education institutions, and many felt marginalised and unsupported.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Darren Chester has announced funding for a project called “From the military to the academy: supporting younger military veterans in Australian higher education”.

“These grants are aimed at assisting younger veterans as they leave the Australian Defence Force and integrate back into civilian life to make sure they get the support they need,” Mr Chester said.

The project will be led by CHEEDR, in partnership with the Australian Student Veterans’ Association, Charles Darwin University, Australian Catholic University and Western Sydney University.

CDU Professor in Education (Research), Sue Shore said research indicated the need to improve processes for identifying student veterans in higher education, recognising their unique strengths and supporting their wellbeing and success at university.

“Student veterans are not well identified in the tertiary education system. Universities don’t collect or seek such data from enrolling students and some student veterans are not all that comfortable in making an issue of their military service;” Professor Shore said.

“As an institution we should respect that but also highlight how their military experience can be the very foundation for university success.”

CDU is already researching veterans pursuing higher education and their experiences transitioning to life after discharge.

Hannah Taino-Spick is a Royal Australian Air Force veteran undertaking a PhD at CDU. Her project works with former serving personnel who served in the Australian Defence Force from 2001 and have gone on to study at university after their discharge. Hannah is exploring higher education as one solutions-focussed alternative for veterans.

Professor Shore said both projects were particularly relevant for CDU given the high proportion of defence personnel living in the Top End.

“Both projects are looking in different ways at the wrap around support matrix veterans need to equip them for the next stage in their lives. This approach will tell us how universities can create the conditions for veterans’ best chances of success.”

The military to the academy project will involve the recruitment of student veteran officers across partner universities to increase recruitment and identification of veterans on campus, provide tailored support and advice to student veterans and increase peer support mechanisms.

“The project will explore the student veteran experience to draw out practices for identifying, supporting and advocating for student veterans. It’s important to then embed those practices in university operations that direct support to student groups that might need a hand,” she said.

The Australian Student Veterans’ Association is an important part of the project structure. The association will liaise with student veterans to access the rich picture of defence experience and the prior learning veterans bring with them into university.

The project team will develop higher education guidelines for current and prospective student veterans and for academic and professional university staff. These guidelines will contain practical and evidence-based information to help universities attract and support student veterans.

Professor Shore said it was important that the needs of student veterans be appreciated and addressed.

“This project has the capacity to achieve that and make a big difference to veterans and university structures as we work with them to move along in the next stage of their lives,” Professor Shore said. 

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