Breaking the Stigma Surrounding our Veterans - Aaron's Story


Tell us a bit about yourself? 

I’m Aaron Harmer, 31, working as a Management Consultant and studying an MBA online. Originally from Sydney, lived in Melbourne and ended up in Canberra with my partner.

What are you up to these days?

In 2013 I left Sydney to move to Melbourne with nothing more than a duffle bag of clothes and took up full-time study in 2014. I was working full time as a First Aid instructor and I took my first step towards the path of success thanks to my education. 

I graduated from my Bachelor of Commerce (Business Law) in 2017 and, in 2018, I commenced my Masters of Business Administration. Whilst studying my MBA, I found employment as a Consultant and relocated to Canberra for this opportunity. 

What's your background (military service, deployment experience if any, career highlights)? 

I was in the Australian Army as a Rifleman with the 1st Battalion. I deployed to Afghanistan in 2009-10 and in 2011 I spent time in Malaysia for jungle warfare training. The highlight of my military career was definitely my deployment to Afghanistan. It was a very challenging experience, both personally and professionally, but also very rewarding. The complexity and tempo that I encountered during that period, and in that unique environment, has been hard to replicate in any domestic setting. 

As a Veteran have you faced any personal or professional challenges since transitioning from the ADF? 

As an OR (Other Ranks - e.g. Private, Lance Corporal etc.) it was a big challenge to identify and translate the military training and skills that I had acquired into the civilian workforce. The drive to excel at everything you do is a trait that is engrained into every service member and as such, when I left the Army, I was confident I could accomplish as such if given the opportunity. 

Unfortunately a hard truth was learnt that as a veteran without tangible qualifications (Degree, diploma, trade) it was extremely difficult to get a form of professional and meaningful occupation. In 2012, after leaving Defence, I couldn’t get a job that was meaningful to me, and I worked as a first aider (casually) for events to make the bills every week. 

I called the team at ASVA (Australian Students Veterans Association), in my last year of university to gain an understanding of what they do. Not only did they give guidance on the opportunities available to me as part of the Veteran community, they introduced me to business leaders to discuss how I can transition into a career of my choice. These discussions propelled me forward to understand that to be as competitive as possible, I would need to further my studies at a post-grad level. In addition, ASVA supported me by providing financial education assistance through their partners at Melbourne Legacy. This assistance was instrumental in acquiring basic needs that would have ultimately been a stretch.

What do you wish the general public were more aware of about Veterans?

I would encourage the community to view Veterans of all ranks and from all services as enablers. Their work ethic and commitment to success is second to none and with the right mentoring and training, they will deliver outcomes that will provide ROI ten fold.

If you are struggling and feel you need to speak up, check out our Get Help page for organisations that can help.  If you would like more information about the work of ASVA, click here to check out their website