What I wish I’d known: Brett Adams

Brett Adams, Air Force veteran and RSL LifeCare Veteran Services Claims Advisor, wishes he had some of his current knowledge about veteran support services when he first transitioned out.

At a glance:

  • The two decades Brett Adams spent in the Air Force were inspired by his father’s service, as well as that of a few uncles, during World War II.
  • His transition out of Defence was relatively smooth, as he was offered a job in a business staffed by several other veterans, which provided valuable support and camaraderie.
  • About 12 months ago, Adams decided he wanted to give back to veterans and applied for a Claims Advisor role for RSL LifeCare Veteran Services.
  • The role has helped Adams realise he is part of something bigger: “It really has opened my eyes.”

Brett Adams spent 20 years in the Air Force, mainly at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland and RAAF Base Richmond in NSW, and was deployed to East Timor. He then spent the next two decades working in the private sector.

When he recently started work as a Claims Advisor for RSL LifeCare Veterans Services, the partner charity of RSL NSW, he began to feel the same sense of satisfaction that the ADF had offered so many years ago.

We spoke with Adams about how his new role has had such a dramatic effect on him personally, why he enjoys helping others, and what he wishes he’d known about the support available to veterans after they transition out of Defence.

Family footsteps

“My father served in the Air Force at the end of World War II, once he was old enough. He spent a couple of years there and always said that if he hadn’t had a civil apprenticeship to go back to, he would have remained in the Air Force. I’d also had uncles in the Army, so military life was always something I considered.

“When I was 17, I realised I wanted to work on aircraft, so I joined the Air Force as well. After technical training I became an engine fitter. My first posting, for about six years, was to RAAF Base Amberley, originally working on the engines that powered F-111 aircraft.

“After that, I was posted to RAAF Base Richmond, until I transitioned out in July 2000.”

Life as a civilian

“My transition out didn’t go badly, but the conclusion of my time in the Air Force was a bit underwhelming. The last person I saw was the Discharge Clerk, who just looked at me and said, ‘Thanks very much’.

“I had a job lined up with AGL, and luckily for me there were several ex-military people, mainly ex-Navy, in a team that I regularly dealt with. That made the transition easier – I understood them and they understood me.

“Two decades and several jobs later, I had an urge to do something that gave back to veterans. I updated my SEEK profile, hit Search, and the first job that came up was this one – a Claims Advisor for RSL LifeCare Veteran Services.

“Within a week I had a call from HR, and within another week an interview, which was delayed because I got the flu!

“When I left the Air Force I hadn’t really been told about the numerous support systems that I have discovered via this job. You were left to fend for yourself or speak with your local RSL sub-Branch for advice.

“I’d been diagnosed in 2014 with rectal cancer, and had put in one claim related to that. But apart from that, I’d had little connection with any other support mechanism for veterans.”

What I wish I’d known

“I would have loved to know about RSL LifeCare Veteran Services when I first transitioned out. Not weeks ago, before I got this job, but two decades ago.

“I’ve seen mates go through very hard times and feel as if there’s nowhere to turn, because they didn’t know what was available, and neither did I.

“But now I do, and I really can help people as a result. There are Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs that veterans and their families can visit, and there is employment assistance and housing assistance. There’s the Spur Equine Program which helps people by bringing them together to work with animals. And so much more besides.

“It has become clear to me very quickly that in this role I am a part of something much bigger. It really has opened my eyes.

“Out at HMAS Kuttabul the other day, I was speaking with a serviceman and explaining all of the options for support for an issue he was facing, to show him what was available. He previously thought such support didn’t exist. 

“He got up at the end and thanked me profusely. You could see it made a real difference to him. He knew someone cared, that someone was there to support him.

“Twelve months ago, I told family and friends that I wanted to give back but didn’t know how. All I did was change a couple of settings on SEEK and I found this job. If that’s not the universe showing you something, I don’t know what is.”

Last year, RSL NSW sub-Branches donated $3.1 million to RSL LifeCare Veteran Services to ensure that veterans and their families can continue to access free DVA claims and advocacy services, housing and homelessness support, financial and employment assistance and much more. 

If you’re interested to a career that involves giving back to veterans, find out more about the Advocacy Training and Development Program.

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