Stories from the Frontline – Episode 3, Kat Starkey

Kat Starkey had a short career as an Army nurse that was marked by bullying and harassment. Now, she works as a DAVLS lawyer, helping other ADF personnel and veterans to tell their story.

I decided to become a lawyer largely because of my experience in the military. My military service was short and filled with bullying and sexual harassment.

I joined the Army as a lieutenant nursing officer in in 2007 after a few years working as a civilian theatre nurse and posted to 2nd Health Support Battalion at Gallipoli Barracks at Enoggera in Brisbane.

I joined the military because I have a military background. My father was a “dust-off medic” in the Vietnam War. He worked on helicopters evacuating wounded troops, so he saw a lot of trauma.

I specialised in neurosurgery and orthopaedic trauma and was interested in advancing those skills.

At that time, our involvement in Afghanistan was kicking off and many of the injuries required those skills.

Although I was recruited as a theatre nurse, and I was put into an area of nursing where I had no skills or experience. In the end, I was stuck in a transport yard signing off sick leave and leave applications for soldiers.

It was very dispiriting.

I was bullied by certain people in my chain of command virtually from the start. I made it known that I wasn’t happy and why. In the military, when you complain you get a big target put on your back. That’s what happened to me.

I was also sexually harassed and that continued when I was at Duntroon to do my officer training. I did my training and the behaviours continued.

I went through the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce set up after the Skype incident at ADFA.

I went back to civilian nursing but because I had been treated the way I was, I needed to prove something to myself and studied law. I have always wanted to do something in the military space where I could use my experience.

That’s why working as a DAVLS lawyer is perfect for me.

It can be confronting when they have similar stories to me. They don’t get me down or upset, but it justifies my reason for doing this and what I fought for was the right thing do.


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Publication date: 15 March 2023
Publication type: AudioPodcast
Language: English