Defence Family Advocate: Sandi Laaksonen- Sherrin

 

I commenced as National Convenor of Defence Families Australia in June 2021. 

When I first met my now husband, who serves in the Army, I had no idea how irrevocably the benefits and costs of being a military family would change the course of my life. Eight years and multiple domestic and overseas postings later, I have devoted my career to supporting the Defence community. 

I bring a strong educational and professional background in research, government and change management. My career started in biological sciences, working with anything from penguins to dolphins, and from forests to beaches across NSW and Victoria. I then undertook a number of project management and business improvement roles in public health, indigenous employment and entrepreneurship, and the veteran reintegration sector. This experience covered a broad range of social impact issues. 

From 2017-2018, I spearheaded research for the multiple award-winning NSW Veterans Employment Program. The research insights gained by the program helped to shape veteran employment initiatives across NSW and Australia more broadly. Through this work I have advised all levels of government, ex-service organisations and the private sector to shape strategic direction to meet the current and future needs of the Defence community. 

In my experience across six different government departments, I have led local and remote teams through a range of improvement initiatives. As Transition Manager then Assistant Director within Defence Community Organisation (now Defence Member and Family Support, in the Department of Defence), I often advocated for Defence families in areas such as health, finances, housing and relocation, veteran and spouse employment. My main aim was to ensure each case was resolved as efficiently as possible, reducing negative impacts on the ADF member and their family. In a large-scale project, I led the design and implementation of a new service model to deliver personalised transition support to ADF Reservists on Operation Bushfire Assist 2019-2020. This commitment to service was recognised with an Australia Day Medallion in 2021.

I am also undertaking a Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) researching the veteran reintegration sector in Australia. It is my hope that this work will continue to provide insights about the sector, and highlight opportunities for improved efficiency and better outcomes for the Defence community. 

You can contact me on: [email protected]