Education the ‘key to unlocking civilian life’

16-Nov-2018

From left – Hannah Taino-Spick and Mick Spick are contemporary veterans pursuing education as part of civilian life.

From left – Hannah Taino-Spick and Mick Spick are contemporary veterans pursuing education as part of civilian life.


A Charles Darwin University researcher is seeking contemporary veterans pursuing higher education to share their experiences transitioning to life post-discharge.

The study will centre on former serving personnel who served in the Australian Defence Force from 2001 and gone on to study at university after their discharge. It will also explore the pursuit of higher education as a solutions-focussed alternative for veterans.

PhD candidate Hannah Taino-Spick, a Royal Australian Air Force veteran, said a dual existence defines veterans’ lives post-discharge.

“There’s the dominant problematic narrative of a life synonymous with mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and suicide, for example,” Hannah said.

“However, there is a more positive narrative emerging with the popularity of events, such as the Invictus Games, with rehabilitation through sports and other avenues like I chose with higher education.”

Hannah said her decision to pursue further studies after a medical discharge in 2015 was the lifeline she needed to transition into civilian life.

“I went through a range of emotions and had to reconcile that with my medical issues and the fact that I was no longer fit to serve,” she said.

“It was an uncertain time and it was scary. I was suddenly in my late 20s with limited options, or so I felt, and it was very depressing. Also, my husband was still serving in the Army at that time and that added to my emotions and the accompanying expectations with being a ‘military’ family.”

Having worked primarily in logistics, air cargo and managing an airfield warehouse, Hannah was advised by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs that retail and administration were her only realistic options.

“I was insulted and hurt at first,” she said. “Then I realised that I no longer had to take orders from a chain of command and could do what I wanted. I didn’t need to be pigeon-holed. However, that realisation was a very slow process for me.

“The critical thinking, focus and structure needed for higher education helped me immensely in regaining control of my life post-discharge and gave me a sense of direction and peace.”

To participate in the study, “The Australian contemporary veteran: a study of Australian Defence Force subjectivity post-discharge”, T: 0404 151 153 or E: hannah.taino@cdu.edu.au