Even before joining the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Leading Aircraftwoman Chantelle Bradford from Brisbane was helping veterans find new purpose after leaving service.
CAPTION: Leading Aircraftwoman Chantelle Bradford, a guard member with Australia’s Federation Guard. Story by Flight Lieutenant Claire Burnet. Photo by Corporal Brenton Kwaterski.
Leading Aircraftwoman Bradford’s work with veterans began in 2017 following the devastation wreaked in northern Queensland by Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
“I wanted to help with the cyclone relief effort,” she said.
“I decided to go to Proserpine as a volunteer with Disaster Relief Australia, which is a veteran-led organisation that provides disaster relief to communities in need.”
It was during this time that Leading Aircraftwoman Bradford witnessed many benefits of uniting the skills and experience of ADF veterans with emergency responders and civilians to rapidly deploy relief teams before, during and after natural disasters.
A long-held desire to serve her country and a passion for flying (10 years as Qantas cabin crew and a Bachelor of Aviation) progressed naturally into a new career with the Air Force.
She started initially as an air surveillance operator and is now a guard member with Australia’s Federation Guard in Canberra.
During her first posting, Leading Aircraftwoman Bradford continued to support veterans by creating a memorial to honour 41 ADF members who lost their lives during operations in Afghanistan.
“It started with a conversation at the Keswick Barracks cafe in South Australia because I asked about the fur hats sitting on a bookshelf beside empty picture frames,” Leading Aircraftwoman Bradford said
“The cafe owner’s vision for a memorial resonated with me and it also felt like a great place to establish a community BrothersNBooks library with books donated after the Black Summer bushfires.”
For the memorial she displayed each member’s hat, Corps badges and colour patches above their framed photo.
The library was based on Australian Army Captain Dylan Conway’s 2020 initiative to grow a supportive community around the benefits of reading.
Leading Aircraftwoman Bradford said she was proud to have left her own small legacy at the barracks that both members and public can view and make use of.
“Veterans can lack purpose after leaving ADF service, but this doesn’t mean they are broken,” she said.
“They often want to continue being of service in some way and have tangible skills that are highly valued in civilian life.
“It’s important that we value and support our veterans in the same way they were prepared to do for us.”