My journey: Before becoming a travel agent I was a Major in the Australian Army

My journey: Before becoming a travel agent I was a Major in the Australian Army
Edited by Travel Weekly

    Floreat World of Travel owner and Travellers Choice member Dianne Garbin explains how she moved from a celebrated career in the Australian Army to running her own travel agency.

    Garbin works at Floreat World of Travel in Perth and has been a Traveller Choice shareholder since 1993!

    Here is her journey.

    Travel Weekly: How did you come to join the army?

    Dianne Garbin: It was 1970 and I was 20 years old, living in Western Australia. At the time all my friends were talking about heading overseas on working holidays, but I felt I needed something more secure than that. Then one day I just happened to walk past an army recruitment office and I thought I’d pop my head in for a chat. Six weeks later I was in the army.

    TW: What was your area of expertise?

    DG: After training I was posted to the First Recruit Training Battalion at Kapooka in New South Wales, where training for all the intakes of men on National Service took place. Almost immediately I was approached about officer training. I thought I’d better just do the tests for some peace and quiet. Sure enough, not long after I found myself training to be an officer, which led to jobs in areas such as logistics, personnel management and finance. I eventually rose to the rank of Major.

    During my career I worked in Sydney, Brisbane, Puckapunyal, Perth and Canberra, where I served in the Army office and Defence Central (the headquarters of the Australian Defence Force). Finally, in 1990, I came back to Perth to manage the Army Reserve Strengths in WA. Three years later the army made me a redundancy offer I couldn’t refuse.

    Marching at the Queens Silver Jubilee in Canberra, 1977. (Supplied)

    TW: In 1986 you were made a Member of the Order of Australia Military Division. Was that a surprise?

    DG: It was! I just arrived home from work one day to find a letter from Government House. It was in recognition of my work in finance management, where I’d brought in a system that had improved the way the army training budget operated.

    TW: What were some of the other highlights of your military career?

    DG: In 1975 we celebrated the Women’s Australian Army Corp birthday, and I enjoyed having a fun conversation with Princess Margaret at a cocktail function. Then in Canberra in 1977 I was the only female Army officer in the parade for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Generally, though it was one of those careers where we did plenty of things that we didn’t think were that special, but they were probably pretty unusual by most people’s standards.

    TW: Were there less attractive aspects to the job?

    DG: I didn’t particularly enjoy going out in the bush in tents that much! But it was stuff you had to do.

    In terms of being a woman in the army, it was an interesting time. At the start we were housed behind barbed wire fences, and there was a limit to how far you could progress in terms of rank. If you got to colonel, you had done really well. But more recently, females have become major generals, which is amazing.

    TW: Why did you choose to join the travel industry?

    DG: Like I fell into the army, I fell into travel. I was discussing with a friend what I might do if the redundancy came through, and he said, ‘you’re always travelling, why don’t you become a travel agent’. So, I did a TAFE course, and the army organised a two-week work experience placement. Before the two weeks were out, they had offered me a job.

    Within 12 months I had moved to Floreat Travel, the retail arm of Aussiebound Tours. Five years later the owner asked me if I wanted to buy the retail agency. I took it over in March 1998, renaming it Floreat World of Travel.

    Floreat Travel was one of the early members of Community Travel Group, which later became Travellers Choice. Thirty years later we are still a proud member of the group. Like the army, it’s an extraordinary organisation and being a member is like being part of a family.

    TW: Do you ever miss being part of the armed forces?

    DG: I miss the camaraderie. Even now if I see someone I served with, it’s like I saw them yesterday, even if it’s been 30 years. It’s a different kind of relationship because you’ve got to have each other’s back.

    How do you think your experiences in the army helped you as a travel agent?

    I had the discipline and the skills training, which could really take you into anything you wanted to do. But if there are two things that I think I took away that have really helped in travel it would be patience and great sense of humour!

    Meinn Gate Last Post ceremony Ypres Belgium 2015. (Supplied)

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