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Operation NAVIGATOR

Operation NAVIGATOR

CSC Vets Hub Podcast -
Project Manager Operation NAVIGATOR

Key Formation / Unit Personnel Briefing Material

Key Pers Brief

Introduction

Operation NAVIGATOR as a requirement is derived from an analysis of the inquiries and reviews conducted over the past decade, especially concerning the issues associated with transitioning out of the ADF. A common thread through all of the reviews and inquiries has been that a poor transition is a significant contributor to poor mental and physical health in the years after transition.

 

Operation NAVIGATOR is not about commencing transition early but about preparing for the eventuality.

Operation NAVIGATOR has four components:

  • a one-day workshop (Solid Foundations) for all those service personnel posted to Townsville for their first posting in the ADF, having completed their initial employment training;

  • a menu of presentations throughout the year, at times that are suited to serving veterans and their partners, on topics that cover the 10 Veteran Community Needs

  • an intake form leading to a process for anyone seeking specific information/support; and

  • the Oasis NAV App (Android and Apple) that has all of the tools and resources to support each of the three components above.

The intended effect of these components of Operation NAVIGATOR is to improve serving veterans' appreciation of where they may find themselves in 3, 5 or 10 years. Operation NAVIGATOR focuses on individual preparedness for a soft landing back into the civilian community, from which they can confidently launch the next phase of their life. Having had some support to think and plan early in their career for the inevitable transition will build resilience in individuals that will inoculate them against the most common problems associated with transition, whenever that might occur in the future.

The Oasis Townsville's Operation NAVIGATOR is a three-year pilot funded by the Department of Defence to support preparing life/career plans for ADF members in the first year of their first posting in their careers in Townsville.

Introduction
Concept of Operations

This analogy is a useful way to understand the concept for operations for Operation NAVIGATOR.

Operation NAVIGATOR as a concept is analogous to a building – “Transition House”.

The App, which is the centrepiece of Operation NAVIGATOR, is the roof of the building, and it sits on the foundations, walls, rooms, reception and hallway of Transition House.

The foundation of Operation NAVIGATOR is the initial workshop called “Solid Foundations”. This is the workshop that every soldier, sailor and aviator posted to Townsville within 12 months of their arrival in Townsville, on their first posting after having completed ab initio training, is required to attend. Upon this foundation sits the walls that build an understanding of what other resources are available to improve a serving veteran's understanding of the options and possibilities related to transition out of the ADF. The walls form rooms representing different organisations supporting transition, like employers, educational and skills institutions,  wellbeing and healthcare groups, and connections organisations like ESOs and other community groups, all associated with the 10 veteran community needs.

The Oasis Townsville provides support to better appreciate what can be learnt in each room. It does this in two ways: information presentations and personal appointments for a tour of the house. Information Presentations are for all veteran community members and are called “NAV Sessions” which takes veterans and family members down the hall to introduce each room. A personalised “Oasis Intake Application” represents reception/concierge for those seeking specific support to navigate rooms that might be more specific to the individual/family needs. This is all covered by the roof, identified as the “Oasis NAV App”, under which Transition House can be found. This is particularly important for veterans who are less confident about visiting Transition House and engaging in the transition process without more information before feeling they can trust it.

To create a strong waterproof roof, Oasis NAV App, all capability elements are required, from personnel to facilities and information communications and technology, and all of the support and maintenance of Transition House that goes with that.

Operation NAVIGATOR is a three-year effort to build Transition House. The last but most important aspect, and the last to be completed given the knowledge and experience to be gained from those most in need and living the experience, is the “Oasis NAV App”. The knowledge gained from those attending the two pilots in 2024 and 2025 is very important while building, as through this process, we gain a thorough understanding of the needs of veterans and their families for a successful transition back to the civilian world. We are then best able to ensure the Oasis NAV App is most appropriately supportive.

Concept of Operations
Solid Foundations Workshop

The first of the four components of Operation NAVIGATOR is the Solid Foundations Workshop. This is a one-day workshop conducted at The Oasis Townsville.

The Oasis Townsville is required to report the numbers of soldiers, sailors and aviators who attended, by unit, quarterly. Townsville units allocate newly arrived service personnel to a workshop within the first 12 months of arrival. They can either bulk register by sending an email to hello@theoasistownsville.org.au stating unit, date of workshop and numbers attending. Or individuals can register themselves upon direction from their chain of command.

Solid Foundations Workshop

The Workshop is conducted in a relaxed environment that offers information on topics that our experience (and multiple panels of those with lived experience of transition) tells us might be important to new ADF members. It touches on a range of issues that we have recognised are not well understood by many new ADF members. 

We are keen to evaluate the Solid Foundations Workshop to measure the degree to which it, along with the other elements of Operation NAVIGATOR, improves the transition experience when that time comes. The Australian Catholic University (ACU) is undertaking the evaluation. Participation is voluntary and ACU will not share your survey data or identifying information with The Oasis Townsville, Defence, or any other party. We would be very grateful if you read the Brief on the Solid Foundations Workshop Evaluation Survey before indicating whether you consent to participate in the evaluation. If you indicate YES on the Registration Form, you will be sent the pre-workshop survey on the morning of the Workshop. 

For individuals attending the workshop, we have assembled some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that we hope will address the key questions. 

Solid Foundations Wksp
2023 Veteran Transition Strategy Alignment

The 2023 Veteran Transition Strategy lists six goals. Operation NAVIGATOR aligns with all of the goals, especially the first:

  1. Plan and prepare for transition early. This is self-evident. Planning could only occur earlier if a recommendation from Dr Boss (Interim Commissioner prior to Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide) was accepted to conduct a transition course at the recruit training.

  2. Access a range of needs-based support programs across the ecosystem. This is exactly what the app will provide: multiple options for entry by veterans and families per their circumstances. The app is especially important for those who are more cautious before engaging in physical services, but it leads them to those services when they feel comfortable and trust the agency.

  3. Engage family and other significant support people in the transition process. The app is universally available, and the physical connections that can extend from the app can be made at a time that suits the veteran and at a place that can be easily accessed by families, unlike ADF bases.

  4. Access employment and skill-based training aligned with their professional development goals. This is one of the range of support programs across the ecosystem to which the app will direct veteran community members via several different paths.

  5. Achieve a sense of financial wellbeing. This is another of the range of support programs across the ecosystem to which the app will direct members of the veteran community via several different paths.

  6. Feel that their service is formally recognised and valued.  This is another of the range of support programs across the ecosystem to which the app will direct veteran community members via several different paths.

2023 Veteran Strategy Alignment
Background

A poor transition from the ADF to life in 'civvy-street' is the most significant factor contributing to the poor mental health of ex-serving veterans. The range of mental health problems associated with a poor transition too often leads to physical illness, homelessness, drug abuse, incarceration, and suicide in the ex-serving veteran community. In some demographics, the rate of suicide among ex-serving veterans is almost four times the national average.

Increased support for career and life planning soon after joining the ADF to better prepare serving veterans for inevitable transition was identified as a lesson from the National Suicide Prevention Trial for Veterans and Families – Operation COMPASS (2017-2022). It is also reflected in the recommendations of the Productivity Commission, Inquiry into Compensation and Rehabilitation for Veterans, "A Better Way to Support Veterans" (2019) and the Report by the Interim Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention (2021). The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide (2022) has also highlighted it.

Townsville is an ideal site for the pilot. 10% of ADF members (600 personnel) separate from the ADF while posted in Townsville. Of those, about 200 remain in Townsville and the remaining 400 return to other locations around Australia.

Evidence shows the average length of ADF service is less than ten years. In the first instance, some life planning is likely to help individuals and their families appreciate the value of what they have in their current Service in the ADF. For many, early in their career, it will be difficult to imagine that they will ever leave the ADF. The experience of The Oasis Townsville has been that many ADF members transitioning have given little or no thought to what they will do after their return to civil community. They are typically focused on a separation date and believe they can "work it out when they are out". After acknowledging the inevitability of transition, effort can be applied to how to best prepare for transition.

The amount of time generally allowed for transition is often considered long by individuals separating but is too short to prepare for an effective and safe transition to civvy street. It is usually enough time to complete the checklist necessary to separate. However, most separating with few complications find the time drags, especially if the rest of their team is busily engaged in training, exercises, and other activities. Importantly, the time from completing the AC853 to separation is too short to prepare for life and career after Service in the ADF. It is important that some thinking and planning has been completed, by individuals separating, from as early in their career as is practical. This is especially the case if an individual left their parents’ home to join the ADF with little or no experience of civilian life before joining.

There is a clear appetite for serving veterans to begin thinking and planning for their inevitable transition. The Oasis Townsville is dealing with an increasing number of ADF members who have not formally begun the transition process – commenced by completing Form AC853. There is an apparent desire for many serving veterans to do a better job of thinking through their prospects before the need to separate becomes evident. These ADF members are generally satisfied with their careers in the ADF and typically seek only to understand their options better should circumstances change. The main effort is to help them appreciate what they might like to do and what preparations could commence earlier to better ensure readiness for transition. This might particularly be education and skills for their next preferred job.

Some targeted information and a bit of guidance from someone who has served in the ADF, and has transitioned, is most likely to offer a sense of confidence about the future. A simple set of goals for three, five and ten years and a few well-thought-out actions to support their achievement will help individuals feel more assured about their future. As all good planners know, the plan will not necessarily pan out exactly, but the thought that went into devising it helps make better choices as options present. Feeling confident about responding to life events contributes to maintaining good mental health. Central to good mental health is understanding what the future can hold and feeling confident that some influence can be had over what that future could look like. Importantly, if the penny doesn’t drop immediately, they know where to return to pick up where they left off.

The goal of Operation NAVIGATOR is to create a resilient veteran community. It supports efforts to obviate the need to focus on saving the lives of ex-serving veterans and their families suffering from mental health problems and associated adverse consequences. The veteran community can actively contribute and support the communities they rejoin after ADF service. They have much to give if afforded a soft landing back to civilian community.

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