After a seven-year year career in the Australian Army, Ryan Vonhoff found himself in various short-term jobs, without a clear path forward.
A chance referral from Hawthorn RSL saw Ryan get involved with Veterans in Construction, a social enterprise helping veterans of the Australian armed forces embark on new careers in the construction sector.
Today, Ryan is one of 10 veterans who recently marked their first ANZAC Day as workers on the Chisholm Road prison project.
The project’s partnership with Veterans in Construction is part of its $16.3 million commitment to fund social enterprises and support Indigenous and local businesses, Victorians with disability and disadvantaged Victorians.
Having spent six months as a labourer on the project, Ryan was recently promoted to lead a team of workers at Chisholm Road.
Ryan says the training he and his fellow veterans received during their time in the armed forces has been valuable when applied to their new roles at Chisholm Road.
"In my team we have a wide range of skills, including a navy diver who used to weld underwater, an engineer working with landmines, and an engineer who can build car engines."
The veterans at Chisholm Road are using their skills in a variety of roles on site, including as labourers and storemen, with 60% hailing from the local Geelong area.
"This opportunity has changed my future – 18 months ago there wasn't a future picture I could clearly see. It’s a different story for me now," Ryan says.
Former SAS veteran and founder of Veterans in Construction, Dave Farrell, says one of his motivations for starting the organisation was to help veterans use skills developed in the military to successfully transition into civilian life.
"Veterans are used to working in disciplined teams, breaking tasks down and adapting accordingly and we have been able to provide multiple veterans stable and meaningful employment at Chisholm Road."
Construction at Chisholm Road began in early 2020 and is being managed by the Community Safety Building Authority on behalf of the Department of Justice and Community Safety.
The new maximum security prison is located in the Barwon South West Region near Geelong, in the vicinity of the existing prison precinct which includes Barwon Prison and Marngoneet Correctional Centre.