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story_nicole | RSL LifeCare - provide care and service to war veterans, retirement villages and accommodation, aged care services and assisted living
September 01, 2020


Following in her grandfather’s footsteps, Nicole joined the Defence Force with a sense of pride. She wanted to honour her grandfather’s memory and was fortunate enough to travel to Papua New Guinea on deployment, not far from where her grandfather had served during WWII – the Kokoda Track.

Nicole spent seven years in the Royal Australian Air Force in both the air and fuel movements. There were some incredible highs and devastating lows for Nicole during this time.

Nicole loved her job, it was “fantastic, an amazing role” where she got to see Black Hawk helicopters, Naval aircrafts and the American Galaxy aircraft. She also experienced a sense of “adventure, enjoyment and wonderful training”. Unfortunately, there is also a “dark side as well” – Nicole had to leave her dog with her parents when she joined, a burden to them and the first time her 10-year-old dog had left her side since it was a puppy. Nicole was also exposed to noxious fumes from fueling various transport vessels and had to deal with the stress and trauma of loading up fellow servicemen and women and watching them head off to fight overseas – several of whom never returned home.

Upon discharge, Nicole returned home and like many veterans, struggled with her identity – “it was pretty hard, I knew what to do in Defence, I knew who I was”. Trying to adjust back to civilian life, Nicole found it difficult to hold down regular employment and experienced a nervous breakdown. Needing two separate surgeries post-discharge and without a regular income, Nicole felt herself drowning fast – “I had to move in with my parents and was termed homeless, I thought about suicide”.

Nicole continued to look for employment and moved into a share house. Unfortunately, she continued to struggle with anxiety and due to fractured relationships was facing homelessness once again. Determined not to give up, Nicole reached out to RSL DefenceCare for assistance. We were able to assist Nicole with both claims and financial assistance. Nicole’s claims advisor helped her complete forms to submit to DVA and helped her get a White Card. They also referred her to counselling services through Open Arms.

The Wellbeing team were able to assist Nicole with bond and a few weeks rent so that she had a place to live and could properly start to get back on her feet. “RSL DefenceCare really stepped in and helped me. If you hadn’t have been there I would be on the street, I would have nothing, absolutely nothing. How do you say thank you for something like that?”

Nicole is still coming to terms with life after service, but as long as she stays positive and works through her problems, she has a bright future ahead.

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