Reducing barriers to transition for members of the ADF

The Transition Taskforce was established and was driven by the government’s 2016 election commitment:

“To facilitate improved transition from the ADF to civilian life the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs will establish a taskforce to report back to portfolio Ministers on barriers to effective transition and suggested actions to address those barriers.”

As a part of understanding the barriers to effective transition, the Transition Taskforce working group engaged acidlabs for design research and service design. Design-led research was a core part of building an understanding of the experience of transitioned and transitioning members of the ADF, and their stories were fundamental to the findings and recommendations of the Transition Taskforce.

Transition is a process necessarily made up of interactions with many people and organisations. Right now, those services and the people providing them often take an organisation-centric view of transition, and the delivery of services related to transition impose a heavy and at times frustrating load on transitioning members.

The experience of almost all research participants during their transitions brought about frustration with the onerous nature of the system and its lack of attention to the individual needs of those transitioning. Most push through and ultimately have transitions that might be deemed successful or effective. For some, this means they are deterred from accessing services and their hard-earned entitlements. For others, it can mean their transition is a difficult and even destructive experience.

Due to the nature of military service and the strong culture prevalent in the services, for some transition presents an upheaval that forces them to confront their mental model of self. For those with a strong grasp of self that is not defined by service, things can go more easily. For those undergoing medical separation and those with psychological injury, transition can be a difficult and soul-destroying experience where their self-image and picture of their reason for being can be damaged long term.

There are as many or more opportunities for the agencies involved to improve matters, though the complexity of doing so will be much greater as the issues to be resolved go to the member’s perception of self and to the longstanding culture of the services and what that can mean for the life of those who serve.


Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Department of Defence


March-July 2017

Approaches used

facilitation, organisation design, service design

Related topics

government, interviews, observational research, qualitative research, quantitative research, workshop development, workshop facilitation