Chris, one of our carpenters, shares a story of resilience and personal growth on his journey to Antarctica

My black jeans

On an unknown date between 29 March 2018 and 16 April 2018 I went shopping for some jeans for a very important appointment. It was a job interview for the Australian Antarctic Division. They recommended smart casual clothes, not too formal as we would be in the same clothes for the entire day. I thought jeans and a nice shirt will be fine. Better still, new jeans would be great! I bought some black ones.

During this period of time, things were happening in my life. Good things. Approximately 2 years earlier than the black jeans shopping expedition, I had given up drinking alcohol. There were several reasons why I did this, but it was an inspiring life changer.

I started to improve my outlook on life. I wanted more. I wanted to do things that I had postponed indefinitely, to try new things, to jump in the deep end. Things like getting my motorbike licence.

One day I came across a recruitment ad for Antarctica. It was about an extreme lifestyle in a very unique habitat. One had to live away from home for a while. This ad ended up being the beginning of a very wild ride.

My first application for a job with AAD didn’t get past the first circular file. The reason was medically unfit.

I was eager to try again. The next season's application was much better. I had done some research about what AAD wanted, and I was lacking in some areas, so I propped up my skill set with a few new licences and qualifications. This extra effort resulted in an interview and the aforementioned black jeans shopping trip. But, alas, I did not succeed this time either. AAD encouraged us to get feed-back regarding reasons why we did not get through. In the resulting email I was told that I had done well with certain aspects of the interview and not so good with others. I also asked if there was anything that would enhance my chances if I were to apply again. I was told that AAD would look a bit harder at an applicant who was community minded, maybe a volunteer. ADF experienced applicants often did well. I had a bit of soul searching to do. For the next 3 years I concentrated on working on the ‘not so good’ bits to improve my chance of success.

I promptly joined the State Emergency Service in Logan East, Queensland, and have been enjoying helping out there ever since. We have served during bushfires, floods, SAR and storm damage ops.

The ADF… really?... at 55 years old? Well, I did say I was up for jumping in the deep end, so I gave it a shot. I marched out of Kapooka near the end of March 2020. That is a story for another day.

With all of these new experiences I have been accumulating, along with the backing and encouragement of friends and family, especially ‘my person’ Vashti, I gave AAD another chance to take me south and it paid off!

It’s been an exciting period since I bought my black jeans. They are a little faded now, nevertheless still in very good condition, so I packed them in my bag and headed for Antarctica.