From Soldier to Senator

We had the privilege of chatting with Senator Jacqui Lambie about International Women's Day and her journey from Soldier to Senator.

WHAT DOES INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY MEAN TO YOU?

For me, it’s about recognising women and celebrating how far we have come. There have been significant improvements to women’s rights and the corporate ladder over the last few decades.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?  We have helped so many veterans and their families over the years, but I feel an enormous sense of inspiration when I see veterans who were in such a bad place some time ago, but they are now successful lawyers or helping people in other ways to navigate the system. It’s very satisfying to see a great outcome for defence families and giving the defence community the support that they need, especially when life is tough. I’m also inspired to know that I have helped people inadvertently through my networks, without even realising how much impact it can have on people’s lives.


WHAT IS YOUR STRONGEST PERSONALITY TRAIT?  Probably my resilience.


WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN THE MILITARY THAT YOU STILL USE TODAY?   I learned how to challenge my limits and work to my full capability. I enlisted with a high level of resilience from my upbringing, however the military taught me that I am stronger than I realised. The military helped me to find more confidence, more courage and the importance of standing your ground. These days, I run around without much fear, which is part of my success, but it has also put me in challenging situations at times.


HOW DO YOU MANAGE STRESS?  Walking is part of my stress routine, but not as easy as it sounds. I feel an increase in stress when I am helping to navigate a number of complex veteran cases at the same time, however the RC has helped to give veterans a voice and reduce a lot of angst for me. In saying that, I thrive on high levels of stress and have surrounded myself with a good team and support network who always have my back.


WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WEAKNESS?  I genuinely care so much about people that sometimes I feel really responsible to help everyone. I am an extremely compassionate person. I know how it feels to be vulnerable due to my own personal challenges, so I am now determined to help people at all costs. I genuinely ‘feel’ people on a really personal level, which can wear me out over a long period of time. Sometimes I can feel rattled and emotionally burnt out if I don’t take a break to refresh myself. I am grateful that I am aware of my emotions now and have learned how to manage it, but I spent many years being hard on myself. I can’t let the pain frighten me, but I deal with it and take the time to refresh when I am carrying too much.


WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?  When in doubt, just smile. Sometimes a bit of ‘tap-dancing’ helps to build confidence. Give people the biggest grin and stand your ground. Most bullies are cowards, so just stand your ground even when you’re scared. Sometimes you have to bow down depending on your situation, but there are times when you need to rise up and face the cowards.


WHO IS YOUR HERO?  It would probably be my Dad. Dad has been by my side forever and always been my biggest fan. He has always believed in me and reminded me that the sky is the limit. If you want it, go and get it – he has always been my driving force and so reliable.


BEST MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?   Besides having children, probably coming out of 12 years of severe mental illness to find myself sitting in the Senate within 2 years.  


FAVOURITE BAND / SONG / STYLE OF MUSIC?  A bit of Guns N Roses and a bit of Pink. I’m an 80s girl at heart!


FAVOURITE MOVIE AND WHY?  All the Rambo movies - the first one is the best one though! It’s not just because of Army, but I remember watching these on a dubbed VCR, so I am a bit of a Rambo fan.


FAVOURITE PLACE IN AUSTRALIA?  Tasmania – all parts are different and it’s a beautiful place overall. I visit everywhere and it’s all got its own uniqueness with an amazing sense of community.


HAVE YOU EVER VISITED OR LIVED IN THE TOP END?   I was posted to 1MP at Robertson Barracks for 2 years. I wasn’t very keen on the Top End when I was posted there 22 years ago. It was quite restrictive back then and having a young family was tricky with limited entertainment and access to some good facilities, but there wasn’t much to do. It was starting to kick off back then and I have heard that it is a lot different in recent years.


WHAT MADE YOU ENLIST? I wanted to be a Police Officer and went to NT in Year 11 as part of my “gap year”. Mum told me to go and explore and learn about life. After a year off school, I returned to school and worked really hard to finish. During that time, I was waiting at Centrelink (to support my income while I looked for another part-time job), then I saw the Army Recruiting bus parked in Devonport. Within 1 minute of seeing the bus, I made a lightbulb decision to join the Army with my friends, so we jumped on the bus and signed on. My friends did a runner and I signed up by myself! (laughs). The recruiting SGT was a massive turn of fate. My friends often tell me that they wish they had also joined with me that day.


WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE OUR DEFENCE COMMUNITY TO KNOW ABOUT YOU? I have the networks to help with direct links to DVA advocates and RSL’s who are trained to support you. Please speak up to the Royal Commission. Not just for your own sake, but for your mates who don’t have a voice. I am determined to improve life in the ADF and help veterans who have been impacted from their service. If you have a story to tell, please come forward. You are welcome to share your story anonymously.