Discovering hidden strength

Former Army Major Nicole Bradley discovered her strength was working with people.

This Anzac Day veteran Nicole Bradley will commemorate the sacrifices of her fellow servicemen and women while also marking two years since starting her own business with the help of Prince’s Trust Australia.

On April 25, 2020 the former Australian Army logistics officer registered Nicole Bradley Counselling, something she couldn’t have imagined when she discharged from the military in 2015.

Nicole joined the Australian Defence Force in 1993 and during her 22-year career deployed to East Timor and the Middle East, posted to seven different locations and spent six months on Palm Island as part of the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Programme (AACAP).

But despite the skills and experience gained through two decades of service, being a mum of two and supporting her husband in his Army career, Nicole doubted her ability to find professional success outside of the ADF.

“I didn't know I actually had anything to offer,” she said.

“As a logistics officer I didn't have a clue about what my skillsets were (because) I was a general service officer. I didn't specialise in anything.”

The former Army Major gravitated towards counselling post-service, as she found her best results while in the ADF came from her work with people.

One career highlight was as a troop commander on AACAP in 2003 where she was able to help her soldiers through their personal struggles.

“I felt I was really able to help them bridge some of their challenges and I ended up having a big welfare role in amongst those people,” she said.

“Even in the later parts of my career, as a 2IC of the Army School of Health, my office was like a revolving door where I'd have people just coming in to tell me their problems.

“(Becoming a counsellor) just seemed to be a natural fit.”

Nicole completed a graduate diploma in counselling and was undertaking a placement at a community service organisation when Covid hit.

Thanks to the pandemic, she couldn’t return to her placement and the thought of applying for jobs was overwhelming.

“I was searching for something else where I could forge my own path in a sense, but I didn’t have any plans for a business,” she said.

“There are very few people I know that have a business of their own and the concept of it was incredibly daunting.”

A friend told Nicole about Prince’s Trust Australia’s free Enterprise programme, designed to help veterans and military spouses start and grow small businesses, and she decided to check it out.

Nicole went into the programme with a “vague idea” of what she could do, and a hope Prince’s Trust could prove her self-doubt wrong.

“I found there was a real encouragement in that group,” she said.

“I got to thinking about things which I hadn't really considered, and I felt like (starting a business) wasn't that complicated in the end.

“It was just that you don't know what you don't know. I didn't know how I could apply my skills.

“But what I found in Prince's Trust is they draw this thread around all these skills you have in Defence that are usable outside - skills I hadn't thought of because you just live it, you don't see it - and that woke me up to what I could offer others.”

While completing the programme Nicole also found training for offering counselling online and the idea for her business was born.

Today Nicole Bradley Counselling provides one-on-one counselling to clients throughout Australia and New Zealand.

“I'm chugging along quietly,” Nicole said.

“I'm very aware that I don't want to end up in a place where I'm either strained and I can't give my clients the best of me, or I don't have time to prepare.”

But she does have plans to expand her offerings.

“I want to do more for people who don't necessarily want to do one-on-one work, but they want develop themselves,” she said.

Nicole has herself found strength in self-development can happen at any age.

At 42, Nicole was introduced to powerlifting which led to three masters bench press records, a Gold medal in the US Department of Defense Warrior Games, a Silver medal in the Invictus Games 2018 and serving as Co-Captain of the Australian team at the Invictus Games.  

“I’m now really strong and I’m being recognised as being valuable for being strong”.

And she happily recommends the Enterprise programme to other veterans and Defence spouses.

“The thing Prince's Trust does, once you leave the Defence Force, is give you this sense that you can still be important when you're not in the service,” she said.

“Very often the sense of who you are is so tied to the uniform that being reminded you're still important and you're still a value to the community outside of uniform is really comforting.”


Article written by Courtney Snowden, ADF partner and Programme alumna of Prince’s Trust Australia.

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