Most veterans faring well in education, employment and income

The majority of ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members had attained higher education qualifications, were employed, earned higher incomes than the Australian population, owned their own homes (including those paying mortgages), and were socially connected by living in a family type household, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Understanding the wellbeing characteristics of ex-serving ADF members, uses data from the 2016 Census to examine experiences of education and skills, employment, income and finance, housing circumstances and social support among 72,000 veterans who had served at least one day of service on or after 1 January 2001 and were ex-serving as at 31 December 2015.

Today’s release expands reporting on the Veteran-centred model as part of an ongoing body of work in partnership with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) and contributes to understanding the wellbeing needs of veterans and their families after separation from the ADF. For the first time, comprehensive information is available on the wellbeing characteristics of female ex-serving ADF members.

‘Education is an important factor when transitioning from the ADF to civilian life. In the general population, higher levels of education are associated with better health and wellbeing outcomes,’ said AIHW spokesperson Ms. Caitlin Szigetvari.

Nearly 2 in 5 (38%) ex-serving female members of the ADF held a university qualification in 2016, 1.4 times higher than all Australian females (26%). While one quarter (25%) of ex-serving males had a bachelor degree or higher, similar to all Australian males (22%).

Attainment of higher education is closely associated with rank. Four in five (81%) ex-serving females who were Commissioned Officers at the time of separation held a university qualification, 3.1 times the rate of ex-serving females who were other ranks (26%). More than two-thirds of ex-serving male Commissioned Officers (68%) held a university qualification, 4.5 times the rate of ex-serving males who separated as other ranks (15%).

‘The ADF provides secure and stable employment, and following their separation, many veterans aim to transition to the civilian workforce,’ Ms. Szigetvari said.

Over three quarters of ex-serving ADF males and females (78% and 76% respectively) were employed in 2016, compared with 67% of Australian males and 57% of Australian females. After adjusting for age, ex-serving females were employed at a higher rate than Australian females, while ex-serving males were employed at a similar rate to Australian males.

‘Employment following separation from the ADF is a key issue among the veteran community, as those managing mental and physical health impacts are likely to face challenges in returning to work,’ Ms. Szigetvari said.

Ex-serving males and females generally had a higher weekly personal income compared to the Australian male and female population.

More than 3 in 4 (76%) ex-serving ADF males earned a weekly personal income of $800 and above, compared to around half of Australian males (52%) in 2016. Three in five (60%) ex-serving ADF females earned a weekly personal income of $800 and above, compared to just over one third of Australian females (34%).

‘The findings in this report present a largely positive picture of wellbeing outcomes following separation from the ADF, however, it is important to note this is not the case for all veterans,’ Ms. Szigetvari said.

‘Those who separated from the ADF involuntarily for medical reasons experienced wellbeing challenges such as higher unemployment rates, had lower levels of education qualifications, and were receiving lower incomes in 2016 than those who separated for any other reason. Those who served fewer years or who separated from the Navy experienced similar wellbeing challenges when compared to those who served longer or who served in the Army or Air Force’.  

The varied experiences of Australia’s veterans reinforce the importance of today’s release and AIHW’s ongoing partnership with DVA for research that supports the needs of Australia's veterans and their families.

Further work is underway to expand reporting on the health and wellbeing of Australia’s veterans and their families, including the exploration of data from the 2021 Census, Australian Tax Office, Government Payment Benefits from the Department of Social Services, and health service use and medications from the Medicare Benefit Scheme and Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme.

Media enquiries: 02 6244 1148

If you need help or support, please contact:

Open Arms - Veterans and Families Counselling 1800 011 046, or

Open Arms Suicide Intervention page

ADF All-hours Support Line 1800 628 036

Defence Members and Family Helpline 1800 624 608

Defence Chaplaincy Support 1300 333 362

ADF Mental Health Services

Lifeline 13 11 14, or

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467, or

Beyondblue Support Service 1300 22 4636, or

Other links

Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Department of Defence

For information on support provided by DVA, see:

Mental health support services

Free mental health care for veterans

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