Prince’s Trust Australia celebrates Defence partners creating flexible careers that fit around military family life.
Australian Defence Force spouses are rising to the challenge of creating flexible careers that fit around military family life by starting their own businesses, with help from Prince’s Trust Australia.
Prince’s Trust Australia is releasing a video featuring three women who are married to soldiers and forging new careers designed to withstand life on the move.
The video is a rare glimpse into the life of the modern-day Army wife, revealing challenges to career progression when managing postings, raising young children and isolation.
Prince’s Trust Australia is releasing the video to coincide with International Women’s Day, as a pledge to forge work cultures where women’s careers thrive.
Historically, military spouses joined the 200,000 Australian women who entered the workforce during the Second World War as part of a war-effort that transformed the role of women in society.
Today, the victory curls are gone and many Defence partners are struggling to find their place in the workforce.
And 92 per cent of those military spouses are women, according to the 2019 ADF Family Survey.
South African born Loren Kalis loves the adventure of moving around Australia with her Army musician husband and young child but finds it hard to maintain employment when moving every year.
“I couldn't keep moving from place to place, having to look for a job every time that we moved, having to leave a job every time that we moved,” she said.
“I knew that I needed to do something for myself that I needed to pick up and go to wherever we needed to move to.”
The digital signage creator launched her business Now Now Foundry in April last year, creating customised gifts from her home in Townsville.
“It's always been a dream of mine to have a business, to make my own hours and plan my own day,” she said.
Now preparing for her family’s next posting, Loren is feeling inspired.
“I get to be influenced by all the different towns and cities that we move to and new people that we meet,” she said.
“I think Now Now can only grow from here.”
For career journalist Courtney Snowden, it took a redundancy and a new baby to take the leap into freelancing.
But getting started wasn’t easy.
“Working in media the stories tend to come to you and you don't have to worry about trying to find the work, whereas freelancing, you kind of have to go out and find the work,” she said.
“And if you don't work, you don't get paid.”
Courtney found her biggest challenge was understanding the nuts and bolts of business, how to network and how to source clients.
“One of the biggest struggles was finding clients who I could work with, but also finding work that fits around looking after two young children, ”she said.
Courtney signed up for Prince’s Trust Australia’s Enterprise Programme, a series of free entrepreneurial workshops for ADF veterans and their families.
“Being a military spouse, we move a lot. It's hard to have career continuity,” she said.
“So having a programme like Enterprise gives us what we need to be able to work for ourselves so we can still contribute to the household without having to rely on finding a new job everytime.”
Courtney said it wasn’t just skills the Enterprise Programme offered that proved invaluable, but the network she found through Prince’s Trust as well.
“When I started the programme, I was in Sydney and I had a young baby, so I was not leaving the house at all,” she said.
“I felt very disconnected from the industry I'd been working in.
“I really didn't have much of a support network around me at the time.
“So firstly, (Enterprise) just gave me a social network so I had someone to talk to, somebody I could bounce ideas off.
“And then once I started establishing myself as a freelancer, it gave me a working network of people who either needed my services or were recommending my services to other people.”
Graphic Designer Bianca Newey said it was hard to make connections when having three small children made it difficult to go out.
“Being a Defence partner can be very isolating and very lonely if you're somewhere that you don't have friends and family and support,” she said.
“My husband goes away at very short notice and then I’m left doing everything with three kids.
“Working is not really an option”.
Passionate about design, Bianca knew she had to set up her business B Luvd to have flexibility and a workload she could do from home.
But starting a business was difficult without access to the right resources or knowing where to begin.
“Having advice and knowing how to do a business plan is probably one of the biggest challenges,” she said.
“Knowing who your target audience is, that's also very difficult to figure out initially.”
Defence Family Advocate of Australia, Sandi Laaksonen-Sherrin champions Defence partners and raises awareness of partners as a talent pool.
“Data from the 2019 ADF Family Survey highlighted that even though ADF partners are more likely to be tertiary qualified than the general public, they were at the time more likely to be unemployed,” she said.
“In a cohort of at least 40,000 Defence spouses, that’s a lot of underutilised talent.
“That’s a lot of potential in a modern workforce facing skills and labour shortages.”
Ms Laaksonen-Sherrin said military partners presented a great opportunity for flexible workplaces to attract and retain experienced, qualified people who could keep their jobs through different posting locations.
And for entrepreneurial spouses, self-employment is an option.
“DFA is proud to work with Prince’s Trust Australia to develop programmes and initiatives to help Defence families reach their full potential in their careers,” she said.
Article written by Lydia Teychenné, ADF partner and Programme Coordinator for Prince’s Trust Australia.
Visit Loren’s business Now Now Foundry
Find Courtney on LinkedIn
With thanks to our filmmaker Noel Smyth