16 June 2023

Where are they now? Meet former first responder Gordon

Former police officer Gordon Drage spent a combined 36 years as a first responder, with 32 of those years spent working in forensic services. Gordon joined Fortem’s Career Management Program after facing compulsory retirement at age 60, as he wanted to keep working and contributing to the community. 

“I believe I am too young and healthy to actually ‘retire’. As the QPS legislation forces all officers out on their 60th birthday, yet they have no ‘transition’ assistance in moving on, so Fortem’s services are absolutely invaluable with that assistance.” 

“I think it is well known that there is a degree of identity loss when someone leaves first responder work, regardless of the service. Especially those who have had lengthy careers, like me, you sort of become one with your first responder identity. In my case, apart from my brother and sister, no one I socialised with had ever known me as anything other than a police officer. You find yourself wondering what you might be able to do post-service; what are you qualified to do? This is very daunting, especially at 60, knowing that ‘ageism’ is a real thing too.” 

Gordon first heard of Fortem attending after attending an internal training day, and with two years remaining before his compulsory retirement, he followed up with Fortem team member Anthony Ferro. 

“I can’t thank or praise Fortem enough for their existence and programs. Since getting involved in the program, I have been able to participate, completely free of charge, in Fortem training sessions. I have had access to tutoring and information from specialist recruiters, resume writers, and other first responders who have made successful transitions and the unwavering support of Anthony and the now expanded Fortem team. I have learnt that, despite my initial concerns, I do have a great many ‘transferrable skills’, and I’ve been able to convert some of them to formal certifications with RPL. 

“I now have a proper resume (something I’d never had to have before) that I can confidently send off to prospective employers. I have an improved LinkedIn profile (another of the free Fortem courses), and I’ve even had one-on-one conversations with HR managers of companies that are supporters of Fortem. This is the sort of access you don’t normally get. Importantly, I have made friends via the networking that comes with being involved with Fortem. All these things assist in positive mental health and maintaining a sense of purpose and self-worth, post-service.” 

When asked what advice he would give to other first responders, Gordon said, “If you are nearing the point, for whatever reason, you will be exiting first responder roles, join up with Fortem! At your own pace, you can use as many, or few, of their varied support services for yourself and your family. They have a Career Management Program, which is first rate, as well as a number of health and wellbeing programs that you can avail yourself of too. It’s never too early or too late to get on board with Fortem.” 

“Since leaving the police force only a few months ago, through networking, I have learnt of the Mentoring Men organisation, and I have trained and qualified as one of their Volunteer Male Mentors. I know I have the support of the Fortem team on-tap and ready to assist me post first responder work.”