Credit where it’s due for veterans

Student veterans will receive a leg up thanks to an initiative that will provide credit for prior courses in the ADF towards ACU courses.

ACU’s commitment to be the destination university for veterans and their families has led to the development of the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) project, which aims to support those transitioning out of the military by formally acknowledging rank and training completed during their service as part of the application process.

The credit mapping framework will effectively slash the duration and cost of a degree at ACU and have the potential to launch confident, skilful and job-ready veterans sooner into their new careers.

RPL for Veterans was funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and ACU will be the first university in Australia to offer the service to ADF members.

“Our veterans stood for this country, and now we are honoured to stand for them,” Vice-Chancellor Professor Zlatko Skrbis said.

“I am delighted to say that it is now much easier for veterans to navigate the enrolment process and get recognition for prior learning they deserve. In short, we are putting our staff, our know-how and campuses in service to veterans, their families and the communities that they belong to.”

Empowering veteran success has never been more important. Research commissioned by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and conducted by Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found there were 419 known suicides – one every two weeks – of serving, ex-serving and reserve defence personnel between 2001 and 2017.

Nick Wickham spent two decades in the ADF, mostly in the elite 2nd Commando Regiment, including stints in East Timor, Iraq and five deployments to Afghanistan.

“I lost 10 close mates over there and probably double that to suicide since then. It’s hard,” the ex-counter-terrorism planner said.

“To get killed in battle is rare. It’s not ’til they get out that they’re killing themselves.”

A back injury accelerated Nick’s exit from the military and the 38-year-old has since made lengthy strides towards a career in social work. The keen angler and hunter believes his relatable experience would be vastly useful in helping fellow veterans flourish.

RPL towards a Bachelor of Social Work degree at ACU will save him thousands of dollars, but it’s the family time it gives back that is truly priceless.

“Having RPL means I can drop to three subjects a semester. When you do four there’s always one that suffers,” the father-of-two said.

“It’s a better workload this way and I can maintain balance. It means I can take the kids to sport.”

The Australian Student Veterans Association was a collaborative partner on the initiative, and chief executive Matthew Wyatt-Smith said the mapping framework, to be shared with all Australian universities, would increase the value proposition of a tertiary degree.

“When you’ve got to keep a roof over your head and commit to three–four years of full-time study, that can be a daunting prospect,” he said.

“But with recognition of military service, that might accelerate your qualifications to two years full-time or three years part-time. That shifts the decision-making needle significantly.”

The mapping framework will be shared with Australia’s university sector because undertaking higher education is an internationally recognised pathway from the military to civilian life.

“To this end, I have already written to my fellow VCs and shared the fruits of our effort,” Professor Skrbis said. “We shared the framework because at ACU the whole of institution, including our governing Senate, recognise the importance of our service to veterans and their families.”

Discussion of suicide can be confronting. There are resources and services available to support you:

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