Episode 110 – Team RWB Down Under? The Founding of Buddy Up Australia with Megan Davidson

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Megan Davidson served 11 years in the Australian Regular Army, Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME). She is a senior consultant and coach with Integral Development and a trek leader for Back Track Adventures, which have given her the capacity and support to launch Buddy Up Australia. She has seen the need for an organization which helps current and ex-service (military and 1st Responder) personnel reconnect with their local communities, find a new purpose and avoid the mental impact of service.

In this episode we discuss:

• The universality of the military experience across countries

• Public perception of the military and first responders in Australia

• The origin story of Buddy Up Australia

 

 

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Transcription:

Intro: 00:01 This is the Eagle Nation podcast where we talk about building richer lives and stronger communities. We have inspiring guests to have real conversations about things that you care about.

JJ Pinter: 00:13 All right everybody. Welcome back to the Eagle Nation podcast. This is JJ Pinter. I’m going to be your host today for a really cool episode. I’m going to call this the the down under addition to even though I don’t know if that’s even the proper terminology to use, but this is my first ever kind of other side of the world, truly international podcast and I’m super excited to bring it to you today. We’re gonna. Have some fantastic conversation. So I’d like to welcome my guest, Megan Davidson, founder of buddy up Australia, military veteran and all around awesome person to the podcast today. So Megan, thanks so much for joining us.

Megan Davidson: 00:53 Thank you so much Jj. I really appreciate it. Hopefully if I have to mix my accent, but yeah,

JJ Pinter: 00:59 yeah, 100 percent. I also have to say thanks because you know, we are ostensibly about as far away as we could possibly be on the planet earth right now. So she is directly 12 hours difference and so I am recording this podcast first thing in the morning early and she is graciously recording this podcast right before bedtime and Australia. So Megan and we were just talking about this ahead of time. I’m going to do my best to say her name correctly in America we say Megan but not in Australia, so I’m going to do my best to not make any mistakes here. Megan is the founder, correct and one of the leaders in a really, really cool special organization called Buddy up Australia and we’re going to talk about it ad nauseum here in a little bit, but at a high level it’s a veteran serving organization that is pretty new and is very similar in nature to team rwb and I think there’s a whole lot of really interesting conversation about universality here and I’m excited to dive into it. What do you think? Before we get into talking about some of the meaty stuff here, I want to talk about you a little bit and get a little bit of your background story. Normally we don’t jump into this as much, but I think this is really interesting. So if you’re comfortable sharing, I would love to hear a little bit about, you know, just very briefly your experience growing up, you know, how you decided to join the military, what that experience was like and then kind of post military life.

Megan Davidson: 02:42 Absolutely. So I’m a Perth a girl, which is the western side of Australia, just probably about 17, 18 sort of got the, I guess the desire to join up but more because just to get out of Perth I think, and to, to explore the world. And the army offered that opportunity. So I went off to Duntroon, which is the equivalent of west point and that’s 18 months of officer training, uh, went into the core of Royal Australian Electrical Mechanical Engineers and delivering years in the military. I didn’t do war service idea a peacekeeping, went across to Papa New Guinea and did some peacekeeping there. But after my 11 years I would just starting, I guess war operations here in Australia. So we’d been in peacetime for a long time and was around actually in 2000 and I got out and even though I got out my, a lot of my mates was still in and still are in and senior officers within the military, but my experience since then has seen it from the other side and I think that’s what prompted me to get back involved because I’ve seen a lot of the, I guess the effects of war and the effects of service in the military.

Megan Davidson: 03:55 So yeah, I’m in one of those roles. I am now a trip leader with a travel company. It takes me all over the world and one of those trips is to a Lakota in Papa New Guinea and it means that I see a lot of people who have interest in, in the military and seeing some of the effects of their service. So yeah, that’s sort of probably a little bit of my background.

JJ Pinter: 04:17 That’s really interesting. I have to say as a former military educated engineer, it is not nearly as grandiose sounding in theU , s military, sp engineer, whatever it was.

Megan Davidson: 04:30 That’s our British affiliation. I guess is the royal

JJ Pinter: 04:33 before we start talking about the genesis story of buddy up, I want to maybe set some conditions if we can do that because I think this is really interesting and some of this Harkin Beck’s hearkens back to my own personal experience in in 2004. I was in the US army. I was deployed. I was in a little dumpy fob in Iraq called Camp Cook in a place called El Taji, which is north of Baghdad for those of you who might’ve been there and we had a contingent of the Australian military on our fob and that was my first experience with anyone Australia and in my life let alone really any other sort of like some, you know, very, very sparse kind of British military interactions. That was my first experience with any other foreign military and it was a really cool, really eye opening experience because in one sense I was incredibly impressed with the people that I get.

JJ Pinter: 05:31 It had a chance to work with, but I don’t want to make a terrible generalization here. They were incredibly professional, but it also felt like a little bit more transactional, right? Because the, you know, this is very post 9:11 and it was very, very raw for the American military and I got the sense that like the folks I worked with were, they were incredibly good at their job, you know, it was just, it was a little bit different, you know, they didn’t have the same kind of sense of, I don’t know, I’m doing a good job of explaining it, but it, it’s just, it was a really interesting experience for me.

Megan Davidson: 06:01 So for those folks, I wonder if that’s because it was so raw for you, for your country that you were a freshman and so I guess we’ll also put it in perspective, the size of our defense forces. So you know, it’s, it’s a little bit interesting that your population is sort of 325 million people. We have 24 million people, so you know, you have 13 times the population that we do a and a Defense Force therefore reflects that yours is 130 636 million people in your defense forces. And we had. Oh No, no, no, sorry, 136. We have about 2 million total in our, in our military ish I think between the and reserves. Okay. And so we have just short of 60,000 people now defense. So it’s very tiny and yet the landmass of our countries is actually, it’s not that dissimilar from the west coast to the east coast.

Megan Davidson: 07:07 I think there’s about a hundred and 70 miles difference between your country and now it’s like it’s, there’s not a huge difference. Yes. So, but we have a lot of space in the middle of our country that no one lives. We just have completely, you know, I guess different populations, but in terms of proportion, I think in terms of our defense forces, I think it works out is about double the size of ours. So you know, in terms of relativity. But yeah, so I think because we have a small defense force, we have to train really hard and we don’t have the luxury of losing people and having someone come behind. So we have to. I don’t know, I just think we have a different mentality that everything is so precious, you know, so people, resources, everything. I know the guys that worked for me and in on equipment and repairing it would be doing everything they possibly could to make sure that that was serviceable and you know, we just couldn’t leave things behind, if that makes sense.

JJ Pinter: 08:05 Yeah. It was really interesting because, you know, I was in the army before, you know, they’re our most recent wars kicked off and it was a very different budget, was much tighter, you know, the equipment was much older, you know, this, a separate conversation for separate podcasts. But once the war started, like the financial support started flowing and it became, became very, very different after that. So Megan distill it down, the experience with what’s used. My personal kind of t equal or n equals one here. My personal experience and the experience that I had on that five and Iraq was was fundamentally no different than, you know, our Australian counterparts. They’re there. They were doing the same types of stuff going on missions.

JJ Pinter: 08:44 So that piece, that elemental piece in the military experience was, was no different and I’m sure you know, you can extrapolate that a million times over whatever, 60,000 times over. Maybe it’s more apt. But the thing that I wanted to talk about a little bit and I know we’re going to have to talk in kind of broad platitudes here is if the experience is different, but I’m wondering the way that the military is portrayed is not the right word, but when I think about, you know, America, there’s been a couple of really interesting things that have happened recently in the last 15 years. Public sentiment for the military here and support of the military is at an all time high. So in some senses that’s great, but in some senses there’s a lot of people to think that that’s bad because it doesn’t allow the proper amount of accountability and scrutiny to the general officers who were leading the war efforts.

JJ Pinter: 09:41 You know, we’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for 16, 17 years right now and aren’t really any closer to an ending then when we started. And the other thing is that some might say that there’s a, a sense of entitlement that has come with members of the American military because they’ve been held in such high regard by the public for such a long time. So I want to just maybe attack this piece first. You know, what is the, it’s a really hard thing to say, but you know, when you think about kind of the general Australian public and their and their perceptions of members of the military and veterans, how would you contrast that with what you see?

Megan Davidson: 10:20 Yeah, it’s definitely growing. We have. One of our probably most significant military days is called Anzac Day. It’s in 25th of April every year and stands for Australian New Zealand Army Corps. It’s goes back to World War One and basically the attendance at those ceremonies and remembered services has grown significantly and so we’re seeing that there is definitely support and even more so I think that the face of the veteran is changing, that they’re realizing that for many years the face of the veteran was an old guy sitting at the bar basically. Um, but you know, it was the older veteran and now they’re saying a fitch and can be 19 years old. A veteran can be female, a veteran, you know, may have lost a leg or you know, it’s really trying to change the perception in the public about what that looks like. We have a different patriotism over here than in America in that we don’t, we’re very patriotic, but it’s probably were not as open with showing a flag or things like that. So it will be Anzac Day, Australia Day and sporting events. That’s probably when we bring their flags but, but that’s, it’s different, you know. So.

JJ Pinter: 11:39 No, I think that’s a really interesting thing to think about because in some senses it’s very similar for us. I mean, we had a, obviously, you know, World War Two was this massive war that much of the globe was involved in and you know, sadly that war as long enough now that many of the cadre of Veterans for that war are no longer with us, but you know, 20 years ago they were. And that was a huge, huge cadre when I was a child. You know, there was a huge cadre of World War Two veterans and then, you know, I’m of the age that my people of my parents’ age were fought in the Vietnam war. And I think, you know, my, my dad was in the military during that time. He didn’t go to Vietnam, but my uncle did several tours there. And you know, lots of people that I know and you know, one of the things that a lot of people think is that there’s a couple reasons that public sentiment is so high right now.

JJ Pinter: 12:29 And one is some sort of like collective public guilt. You know, about the way that the military retreated post Vietnam. And then, you know, a lot of people think that the military and America is becoming more of a family affair where you have family, you have, yes, you have a generational and a lot of people are worried that we’re creating like this, you know, warrior, just like kind of military aristocracy, you know, where we’ve got, you know, a small percentage of the country who is kind of repeatedly intergenerational staying in our countries, military. And so a lot of people, it’s not something that they, um, we don’t have the draft here, we haven’t had that in a long time. I don’t know. No one knows exactly why, but public sentiment is really high right now. It’s awareness I think is going down a little bit as we’re getting. We’re not deploying massive amounts of troops anymore like we were. And so the war is getting a little bit farther away from, I guess public consciousness, but it’s certainly still there and still really high.

Megan Davidson: 13:32 Yes. Yeah. And I think though, the other thing that struck me was also the other side of that is the stigma. So I was working with different organizations with my role at work and one said we’re looking at hiring someone in our next veteran, but we’re concerned about his mental health and I thought well, you know, and I thought, oh my gosh. And I realized then that was a real stigma for companies actually wanting to employ people and I thought wow, that’s the flip side. So they might on one day respect them and what they’ve done, but on the other hand, they don’t want to employ them because they don’t want the liability in organizations. So this is something, you know, we want to tackle as well. So

JJ Pinter: 14:11 yeah, that, that is something that I would say I would say we have successfully tackled that are pretty successfully tackled that there was this, this is not my executor of expertise, but I’m, I’m tangentially related to it, you know, the probably, I dunno, five or six years ago, the unemployment rate for veterans was substantially higher than that of the general population. And so there was a really concerted effort to do two things for companies to hire veterans. Very big. There was a something called the veteran’s jobs mission, which was led by jp Morgan Chase, which is a huge bank and then tons of other companies and then there’s been companies like starbucks and Walt Disney who have really, really done good work here, but the other thing that has happened to, there’s. There’s been a very deliberate kind of marketing campaign almost to say, Hey, don’t hire veterans out of some sense of patriotism or pity. They actually make their experiences, make them really good employees and if you give him a chance to you, that’s what you’ll find out. And so there’s been this rebranding, which I think is true, but you know, companies are now wanting to hire veterans because of the kind of experience that they bring. So it’s been. I don’t know, it’s been a really interesting thing to watch.

Megan Davidson: 15:24 Well, we’re probably at the start of that journey where companies are now getting funding from the government to hire veterans. So.

JJ Pinter: 15:32 Well that’s a good transition into. The other thing I was going to talk about before we started talking about buddy up is social support is maybe not the right word, but here are the states. We have our second biggest arm of our government is our department of Veterans Affairs. It’s monstrous. I mean it’s just huge. I mean it has something like, I don’t know the exact numbers, but like a half a million employees, $350, billion dollar budget. I mean it’s just astronomically large to support veterans and we can. I have done podcasts about the va and I’m sure it will continue to do more. It’s this, it’s this massive, massive, massive, you know, government bureaucracy that exists to support veterans and it started back after World War One has just been like any good government program added onto and added onto and added onto. And it’s become kind of all things to all people. Outside of that there’s a are additional services that exist from a really robust network of nonprofits that exists in America, of which I’m part of one of those. So the social support, if you want to call it that for military veterans in our country, is really, really high. I’m wondering, you know what the, the corollary is in Australia.

Megan Davidson: 16:44 Okay. So I think for veterans it is as well, like we’ve got department of Veterans Affairs and there is some pretty good support. I would say. Having said that, if you’ve been medically discharged from the military then that affects your pension. So that’s something I only just found out recently from one of the guys that volunteers for us and he said that his pension was significantly reduced because he was medically discharged. And to me that just blows my mind and something that I’ve got on my list of things to do to investigate further. But we as an organization buddy up Australia and not just looking at veterans. So that’s probably the difference between team red, white and blue and all see that we’ve extended it to the emergency services and fire ambulance and police. And. And the main reason was that they have very limited support, particularly the ambulance paramedics. They have really high suicide rate and yet very little support in comparison to what services they’ve been providing, so we thought there’s a definite need in that space to provide this sort of support and in effect a lot of military people end up in those emergency services in our countries. So it was just a good extension for us anyway,

JJ Pinter: 18:00 so the same thing in our. In our country, a lot of military veterans end up in law enforcement either at the local or state or federal level. It’s interesting. We would call a first responders would be the term that we would use which would be kind of police, fire, paramedics, so on and so forth. So let’s talk about buddy up Australia. The. I want to hear the story of the idea, if that makes sense, and then we’ll talk a little bit more about the organization and how it hit is it has grown. My. My understanding is that the network of nonprofits are not as ubiquitous. Maybe in Australia as they are here. There’s lots and lots and lots of them here. And just the, where you came up with the idea for the need for the organization and kind of how you came to that realization.

Megan Davidson: 18:49 I think it’s been a very, very long journey. So even when I was back in the service, I was surprised at the att guys presenting because there was one job I had where I had a psychologist and a social worker on my staff and we had Vietnam vets coming and saying that they had posttraumatic stress disorder and that was 25 years after the event and I just couldn’t believe it. I was thinking what, what’s triggered it? And one of the guys said it was, you know, you had a granddaughter and he just made him realize of what could have been he could have done to children and women in the villages and, and you know, I sort of was the start just went wow, that’s crazy and awful. And so there was moments like that throughout my career and then post career that kept triggering for me what, you know, what the hell are we doing and how come we haven’t solved this problem?

Megan Davidson: 19:40 You know? And because there’s a lot of research out there that it’s not just the veterans that are suffering, but it’s the children of the veterans and they have the highest suicide rate and you know, that we’re not breaking the cycle and because we’re not supporting them. And in 2012 I took a trick across the Kokoda track in Papa New Guinea and we had some current serving special forces guys on there and some of the teenage children of some of the veterans that have been killed over there. And in Afghanistan I was just, I was really proud of our soldiers that judy was helicopter, these nice kids and young adults. And that was great while we were trekking and it was all good. But once we go back to the hotel, I just realized that, you know, they basically, I guess it’s that alcohol is a good way to just, um, you know, your sorrows.

Megan Davidson: 20:29 But I think it was another level and it just was another, I guess sign for me that we’re not really providing enough support. We’re not providing an avenue for people to, I guess, repair. So there was lots of things that have happened in that process, but, uh, I guess what the catalyst was that, uh, I was reading Brenae Brown’s book, daring greatly and I read about team red, white and blue, and I was on a coach and it was on a coaching course and when you’re in a coaching course they tend to bring out the stuff that’s, you know, your passions that are, I guess looking below the surface and what are the action items I had was to investigate team red, white and blue. And, and then through that I am connected with your predecessor, Blayne Smith and who are just on Linkedin, you know. And uh, I was surprised that he responded pretty quickly, you know, in terms of connecting.

Megan Davidson: 21:20 And I then said, well, I’m just about to head to Nepal. I was going to Everest base camp. And I said, well, how about we connect when I get back? And so unfortunately when I got back he was transitioning from team robot and blue to go ruck. So he, I think he went on holidays for about five or six weeks. So we didn’t reconnect until about June last year and he was good enough to, I guess skype and give me some time, once again, it was a 12 hour difference, so I think the sun was going down behind him in Florida, Tampa, Florida, and it was early morning for me, but he was fantastic in terms of giving me the, the reality of setting up an organization like team red, white and blue. And, and, uh, I guess the reality is important because having an idea is one thing, but I’m making it a reality is another. What really was the catalyst was that if I didn’t do something I regret it. So, uh, that was in the end, what made me just do something. I guess that’s a bit of a journey. I can tell you much more, but that’s sort of.

JJ Pinter: 22:25 So I’m interested in. Thanks for sharing that. That’s really, it’s a really powerful dirty. I think these origins stories I love to hear because something going from being glimmer in someone’s eye to a tangible kind of thing like buddy up is right now. And then, you know, I love you. I’m certainly going to keep up with what’s going on and maybe we can redo this podcast and a few years when you can, you know, we can talk about the different problem sets that you’re trying to work through that.

Megan Davidson: 22:52 Oh absolutely. But it was interesting when I looked at my. I looked at skype tonight and it was actually a year ago next week that I actually, um, with my last call to Blaine and I was like, oh my gosh, that’s incredible. So yeah, it’s amazing what a year we’ll do. So in a year’s time or two year’s time it will be a different person.

JJ Pinter: 23:09 No, I want to. So the way that in America nonprofits, the government allows nonprofits to exist for the, for the purposes of filling gaps that are needed in society between what the government provides and what the private sector provides. And so in the tax code, you’re allowed to be a nonprofit. There’s various different ones, but most of most of them are five, zero, one c, three of the tax code. And that essentially means that you don’t have to pay federal taxes and people can donate money to you and it’s tax deductible them. Those are the two big things. There’s lots of other things. But those are the two big things. Is that the same similar in Australia?

Megan Davidson: 23:55 Absolutely. But if you’re a non for profit, that doesn’t mean that you get that tax deduction. So that was something I learned. We were established back in January. Oh no, sorry. Early February as a company on our Australian Securities and investment commission. So assets. So that’s one thing. Then you get registered as a charity and I just assumed that meant that people could get tax deductions but I found out quite quickly that that’s not the case and you have to apply and we applied and filed and I then had to get legal advice about, you know, what, what do we do? And, and so we just really had to work out which subtype, you know, was really our and what we were doing. And uh, so anyway, in July this year we successfully got deductible gift recipient status from the taxation office. So that was just brilliant news because in Australia it’s weird how Australians when you see a charity, you expect them to be able to have a tax deductible donation. So if you don’t get that they don’t know, they sort of think, well what, what sort of charity are you, you know, so it does give you a lot of credibility having that capability. So that was a big, a big tick for us in terms of our standing and our credibility for our donors, members, sponsors, everyone. So it was a good moment. That was a dance around the kitchen moment.

JJ Pinter: 25:21 So tell me, tell me about buddy up Australia. I mean, the, the organization. So you had the idea that you’ve, you’ve gone through the work to kind of make the entity exists. Tell me about it. What do you do? What makes it unique? I’d love to hear just about the organization.

Megan Davidson: 25:38 Yeah, sure, sure. So I guess we really have models a lot of body up Australia off team red, white and blue. So, uh, so the probably a bit I didn’t say was after I connected with on Linkedin, but said, well, you know, connect when we get back, I actually printed off the annual report of team red, white and blue for, for that year and took it away with me to Nepal because, you know, when you’re tracking and you know, at night you sort of go, well what are we doing? And I just went over and over that annual report in terms of looking at your vision, looking at values, looking at what you did and saying, how do I translate that into Australian? How do I make that something that would work here? Because I really thought that your model the last probably 10 years different organizations around the world, team Rubicon mission continues.

Megan Davidson: 26:30 I think that’s another one is something in the New Zealand here. So there’d been a lot of organizations that I looked and I thought yes. And what I like about all of them is that sense of service because I think when people showing up, whether it’s the police and firemen first responders or whether it’s for the defense forces that there’s a sense of judy and sense of wanting to serve and that continues after this, you know, after they get out of the army or wherever, whatever they’ve served up for. And so that’s when they can feel that sense of loss and disconnection. And so that was what really resonated with me of team red, white and blue and the fact that you didn’t have to have a specific skill to build a house or anything like that, but you just basically came to regular activities and you know, sort of connected again.

Megan Davidson: 27:17 So that was, I guess the starting point is to, for me, was to get the organization right and to get that vision of what this would look like. So as I said, looking at different models around the world and saying, Yep, team red, white and blue has, I think got a really strong model. It’s proven to work just over the last six years of your growth. And I liked the fact that it’s predominately volunteers. You’ve only got a small amount of paid staff, you know, that sort of thing was really what resonated with me. So we, I guess it was around about this time last year though, that probably my good friends, you know, it also was saying, well you know, let’s start this thing and yeah, so we just sort of went, well what do we need to do? So it’s really getting the legal side of things happening and getting the structure around.

Megan Davidson: 28:02 So probably the difference between the starting of team red, white and blue and, and, and us is that we’ve done like, what’s that movie field of dreams build it and they will come, you know, we’ve, we’ve done that rather than I think the start really small and then build the organization around it. We looked at yours and when it works, let’s replicate that and people will come. So we have three chapters. We’ve got one in Hobart, which if you look at the map of Tasmania, that’s at the bottom. We have on the eastern side and then in that set little island that sits off that people forget on the map and then we have a chapter in Queensland which is on the east coast of the north end side and then one here in Perth. And we’ve got, we’re in discussions with people in Melbourne to start on this, so we’ve only really been operating for two months, you know, so even though we’ve been established since February, it’s really new days, but we’re getting, you know, a couple of memberships every day and it’s, it’s exciting and, and affect the, um, and I remember listening to one of your podcasts with caroline or Carolyn Angel last year and it said about outcomes and outputs.

Megan Davidson: 29:10 And I remember thinking, yeah, the other day we got our first outcome where I had a text from one of the spouses of the members just saying since they’d been involved with body up Australia, their mental health has improved out of sight. And I, I just went, yes, that’s what we’re here for. So that was exciting. I thought first one, Yay. Just goes up from here. So

JJ Pinter: 29:31 as the organization grows, what’s happened with me is that I spend all of my time trying to make the organization better so I know we’re all have our warts are, I know the things that we could be doing better and sometimes you lose sight of the fact. It’s like no, this, this organization is really making a lot of people’s lives better on a daily basis. And the work is just incredibly important. It’s super duper exciting. So absolutely. So what are, tell me about the future plans were. I know you’re, so you’re ticking along now. You got, you got three chapters. You, you got a couple members everyday. I remember now it was the second employee. A team already be. I remember remember those days very specifically and there’s no doubt in my mind one is going to turn to two which is going to turn to five, which is going to turn it. And you know, when you look a year out or two years out, what do you think the organization is going to look like? What do you want it to look like?

Megan Davidson: 30:25 Yeah. So at the moment our chapter leaders are probably the more senior guys that have been in the defense force or you know, so that’s fine for now, but what I would like to see in two to five years is the younger guys, you know, there’s sort of late twenties, early thirties being those veterans are being the chapter leaders and then being on a leadership program with the older guys who’ve been around and develop their leadership in that way. So that’s one of the things I see. I like the idea of the leadership program you’ve got going, Ryan Kennedy, one of the guys who I spoke to you earlier this year and I think late last year it was just explaining that leadership program that you have in team red, white and blue. And I think that’s something we would look to do and offer our members in the future. I’d like to see the community looks at our brand and says, wow, these people are not just looking after themselves, but they’re just giving back to the community again.

Megan Davidson: 31:24 You know. So from that perspective, I would love to see because one of the big things that I see, we will be doing his volunteer projects. So an example is we’re working with a school in term four, so what’s that? About two months away we’re, we’re going to be alongside the students at the school and we’re going to be building an orchard through the school and you know, just projects like that that I think help us help the community and just make everyone feel good. You know? So yeah, that’s what I want to see is just more of that where we’ve really just being a. I guess what I want to see is that what we talked about before with the general community who may not have any connection to people that service personnel to go, well, I don’t feel sorry for them. I feel proud and I feel respect for that person because of the service they did overseas, but also now for the service they’re doing right now. You know, so it’s not about what they have done. Because I think that sometimes some of our veteran organizations that we’ve had in the past, they’re very much focused on the past and what they did do and how they should be respected and, and I’m always about, well, what are we doing now to keep you keep that alive, I guess, and be future focused. Yeah,

JJ Pinter: 32:38 yeah. Mega, or excuse me

Megan Davidson: 32:40 when I say this, all the time you went to, it’s much more common in our military for people to join and do what we would call, like the slang would be hitches, but enlistments, you know, so one or one or two enlistments and then leave the military and I just think, I tell people all the time, psyche, you cannot let the five years that you spent in your life, in your early twenties, the you’re, you’re probably going to lift here 95. Those can’t be the pinnacle of what you did in your life. You’ve got another 60 years that you can really take periods and do something with it. It’s, it’s interesting you, you might have heard the phrase the greatest generation. It’s a phrase that was with, that was coined here. Have you heard that term before? The phrase? Which one is it?

JJ Pinter: 33:23 The greatest generation,

Megan Davidson: 33:27 not so much used here.

JJ Pinter: 33:28 So for us it’s a, I think Tom Brokaw who, who’s a no news actor actually coined it, but it refers to the World War II veterans who kind of went off and fought and helped win world war two and then the real impact was that they then came back to America and started businesses and ran for office and really like helped pull us out of a recession and really contribute to society in a very big way in the post war effort. And I think our generation of veterans, you know, feels like, you know, we, we can do the same thing and there’s, I mean it’s no secret that there’s a lot of divisiveness in our country right now. So I think our generation of veterans is saying, no, we can, we can help lead, we can help serve and we can take the experiences that we’ve had in military and take them back to our communities and be part of this solution. And I think something that we’re, there’s a pretty, pretty cool movement that’s going on right now that I think is really good and really healthy.

Megan Davidson: 34:29 Yeah, I think that’s good. That is good to hear because yeah, you don’t want to dwell on the past or you know what you did do. It’s, you know. Yeah. There’s a lot of life to live.

JJ Pinter: 34:40 So what’s the number one? I’m, I’m a person who tries to be pretty reflective and introspective. What’s the biggest thing that you have either learned or assumption that you made that you were, you’re an engineer. So one of the steps of the process is putting down your assumptions and validating them. Right? As part of the scientific process, what’s. What’s something you’ve learned or an assumption that you had that you were wrong about his come to light as you are going through the process of standing up this organization?

Megan Davidson: 35:09 I think it’s, yeah. I don’t know if there’s one x in starting it. I mean, apart from, you know, those little ones where it’s the process of like a charity and what that deductible gift recipient status, but that’s sort of minor in terms of, I think it’s the public public’s perception. I think through me, you know, in the last probably two years that I didn’t realize that there was this stigma that there was. And I think that’s been something that has also niggled at me that I go, well, that’s, that’s a really big generalization and I guess I want to prove people wrong around that because I think as you know, our soldiers are very highly trained. They’re talking soldiers because obviously I’m ex-army, but our service personnel are trained exceptionally well and so they have so much to offer. And so I sort of, I guess have this pride in, in what that is.

Megan Davidson: 36:09 And so I think that rather than sort of putting us aside, you know, putting these people aside, it’s, well actually they still highly useful and I don’t know how to articulate that as well as a. I’d like to. But I think that was sort of a shock that I didn’t. I didn’t realize was out there and that was only sort of the last two years, 18 months, you know, and so even though I had been having this thing of, Oh, you know, I could see that there were people suffering and the next generation was suffering. I guess I didn’t translate that into the economic world and how people were not then wanting to give jobs to these people because they saw the impact and I, I guess I hadn’t made that transition and translation. Yeah,

JJ Pinter: 36:54 well I think there is. So Megan, I think as I was preparing for this podcast and thinking about it, this universality of experience across the militaries and war fighters is one of the things that really stood out to me and I’m, I’m glad we had a chance to talk about that today. There’s two other things that I want to spend a little bit of time on today and I want to have a little bit more fun here to end the podcast or to change it up a little bit. I always, if you’ve listened to the podcast, I always end with a question about leadership, which I’m going to ask you about for sure, but I thought it would be. It would be fun and interesting to maybe spend a little bit of time talking about some, some cultural differences here in a in a fun way because just because I think it would be interesting because in some senses I think are two cultures are very similar, but there’s some important nuance there that I think is is is important. My sense is that there’s probably more American culture that is export to Australia then then the converse, but I could be wrong about that now. I think you’re definitely right about that. So I have A. I have a couple of a couple of questions that I’m going to ask and I will. Out of fairness, I will answer them myself as well. So here’s the. Here’s the first one. What is something that you think most Americans have wrong or misunderstand about Australia?

Megan Davidson: 38:17 Oh, that’s a good question. Okay. That we say put a shrimp on the Barbie. We don’t say that. We never found the above put steak on the Barbie.

JJ Pinter: 38:28 Oh, I hear a horse commercials all the time. How can it not be true?

Megan Davidson: 38:35 And we don’t drink foster’s beer that we export that beer. It’s disgusting and I don’t know why it’s not sold in Australia. I don’t think it’s solely in Australia anywhere and yet there’s a beer called fosters that we explored. It’s crazy.

JJ Pinter: 38:51 Do you drink it? Do you know? I’ve had it before. I found at the risk of offending anyone. I thought it was garbage as well, so yeah. Good, good, good. Because we do too and we think, oh my gosh, why are we exploring this? I’m, why do people like it? I don’t know. Any way we could say kind of the same thing about our trademark beer, budweiser. There’s not a whole lot of people drink budweiser here, but I would say if I’m answering that question, I would say probably a thing that a lot of people will misunderstand about the United States is just how different it is culturally in different parts of the country. And it’s, you know, I think a lot of people think that there’s this prototypical American and as someone who’s lived around, I mean the living in the south versus living in the northeast versus living in the Pacific northwest versus the Midwest. I like, they’re just very, very different places with different people. It’s just very different. So I would say that that is, you know, one of the things that probably a lot of people misunderstand,

Megan Davidson: 40:00 well I think a lot of Australians because we see so much of your television, but also because I think we’ve been quite involved in your politics in the last 10 years. We’ve watched, I, I mean I remember being at work and having two screens at one with the American politics, you know, the voting outcome on one screen and then my work on another just waiting to see what the, with your country would do. And this is the last two presidents, not just the current one, you know. So it’s, and you can see obviously by the voting what sort of demographic there is in your country. So yeah, it’s interesting I think. Yeah, a lot more Australians have in the last probably five to 10 years have been much more aware of the demographic of the United States. Yeah.

JJ Pinter: 40:43 So here’s another one. You, you, I think hit up maybe a good small example with the whole like outback steakhouse, a TV commercials earlier, but what is a, what is a place that you think that your country has been kind of misrepresented any in a movie or a TV show or something like that?

Megan Davidson: 41:08 Oh, okay.

JJ Pinter: 41:10 And misrepresented in various way. Just like, just like, that’s not real.

Megan Davidson: 41:17 I know. Yeah. Well you know the Crocodile Dundee is a good example where he wrestles and crocodiles and stuff, but I mean it’s only in fun and we like to do that. We’d like to make, make the, make fun of ourselves. Yeah. I’m trying to think of any other one. I see that when it comes to mind. The first is Crocodile Dundee and you know, because he really went well us because the Second Crocodile Dundee you, I think you went to la, didn’t he or something? I remember watching this knife. This is a knife, so I’m trying to think of something else more recent because we’ve got the mad max movies. No, I’m just trying to think of what’s come out lately that it’s pretty accurate.

JJ Pinter: 42:06 Does that have some relationship to.

Megan Davidson: 42:10 No, I think that’s futuristic. Yeah. So that’s probably unrealistic, but I don’t think it’s meant to be sitting in Australia. I think it’s just futuristic, isn’t it? Um. I’m trying to think of who else. What else are probably you witnessed, seen that maybe because a lot of the movies that I probably would know you probably wouldn’t have seen. So when I think of things that might have gone to the US.

JJ Pinter: 42:33 Well I have three young kids so I’m just not seeing any movies. Period.

Megan Davidson: 42:39 Yeah, exactly. I can tell you the movie finding Nemo, that’s Australia. My kids love it.

JJ Pinter: 42:45 That’s a great one. My daughter is in love with this movie, Moana right now and so on. Nonstop.

Megan Davidson: 42:55 I haven’t seen it yet, but I, it’s on my list.

JJ Pinter: 42:58 It’s good. I will give. It holds my attention the first maybe 60 times. It held my attention.

Megan Davidson: 43:04 Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. So what’s the, what’s the equivalent for American?

JJ Pinter: 43:09 Uh, I don’t know because I don’t know any like, other than Ido, Crocodile Dundee and I dunno, like Dave Irwin is like super, super duper popular here until, until he died. I don’t know what I would say other than. Yeah, those are the big ones.

Megan Davidson: 43:29 Steve Irwin was really locked it in real life. So you know, he wasn’t putting it on. He thought he was. Australians really thought he was just playing that character. But actually it was like,

JJ Pinter: 43:40 I remember when I first, someone was when I was in the army, this is, I’m dating myself here big time, but I remember someone telling me about this and someone had made like a dubbed vhs tape. Someone had to dump to vhs tape of it and I was like, get a VCR. And I remember like watching grainy versions of this guy wrestle crocodiles, what is this?

Megan Davidson: 44:01 This is for the same real. Everyone does it and it’s just him. That’s just brilliant. Pretty much everyone. That’s what we do on Saturday nights. This is fun

JJ Pinter: 44:12 one. Megan that will jump on here. Language. What is, what is something, you probably hear this a lot because like I said, you guys are consuming lots of American tv or you at least get a lot of it. Is there anything that stands out with some terminology that is just like we just something different.

Megan Davidson: 44:28 Oh yeah. Yeah. And I dunno if I should that on your podcast. So what you term as a fanny pack or fanny is like, it’s a women’s bits on our side of the country. We just think that’s really funny.

JJ Pinter: 44:46 Coming back in style. I see, I see people wearing.

Megan Davidson: 44:50 Well it’s that same fanny is just. Yeah, it’s not what you would use here in Australia. It’s not, it’s not a swear word, but it’s just a, you know, it’s, there were, they’re referring to females bids. So yeah, that’s probably the weirdest. But uh, we know if he’s an American we just sort of go, oh yeah, I’m super excited. You know, like we [inaudible] that you guys get excited by everything and I didn’t know you. I mean you don’t, but that’s what we think of united a country that you, you’re all very positive. Yeah. That’s a good thing I think.

Megan Davidson: 45:30 Yeah, I mean we get a lot of American TV. I grew up on happy days and Milwaukee, it’s great and now it’s all the Ntis shows that I watched them but you the crime law and order and we get a lot of American tv so I think our culture where it used to be a lot of British influences now a lot of American influence, so I think there’s a lot more of our language that is similar then ever before. So yeah, it makes it a bit easier. Having said that, I watched and command to the other night and it was the America, this, sorry, the Australian boss was the, uh, of the, of the TV studio or whatever, and he was pretending to talk Australian and everyone’s going, please, I don’t understand, you know, and he’s really just mumbling away, but Australians can talk fast.

JJ Pinter: 46:20 I have not seen that movie yet, but I loved the original one so I’ll have to check it out.

Megan Davidson: 46:24 Yeah, definitely check it out.

JJ Pinter: 46:27 So, Megan, I want to, I want to be respectful of your time here. You probably need to get in bed and I want to ask one last question and this is a question that I ask everybody and it’s about leadership. So obviously getting the idea and starting your own organization requires a tremendous amount of leadership to include the time that she spent in the military and then you know, the work that you do this you’ve done in between that period of time and what you’re doing right now. And so I’m interested always in how people develop their leadership styles and the things that they do. And so here’s the question that I was like that what’s the most important lesson that a leader has ever taught you in your life? And if there is with some people they say, oh, there’s this very specific kind of crucible moment that I had where I learned something specific and I’ll never forget it. Or some people say, you know, thematically over my life I’ve, you know, here’s something that I’ve kind of learned from a bunch of people. And then I try to really have that be a part of the way that I lead. So that’s the question. What’s the most lesson that a leader has ever taught you?

Megan Davidson: 47:33 I’m probably gonna answer it, what I’ve learned, whether it’s this, I don’t know whether I’ve learned it from someone, but just through the process of, of, of learning. So when you’re in the military, and I think you can appreciate this and particularly as a female, I felt that I had to conform to a certain leadership style and I don’t know if that was truly authentic for me. And so I think there came a lot of freedom when I left the army and was able to find my way and be Megan as well as a leader. So I think what that translated to was that I was able to be me and vulnerable and our human being. And so for me leadership is about. And, and I guess where I’ve seen it in others is that where you actually own up to things that haven’t gone right and you don’t try and cover something up, you say, Yep, that’s what we did.

Megan Davidson: 48:30 I stuffed up and this is what I think we should do. Or asking others, what do I think we do? So that’s one of the key things and the second probably biggest one is knowing that I don’t have to solve everything myself. I think I was fortunate that going into the core idea that I had to ask a lot of questions, you know, because I didn’t know. And so I think more recently I do that more. I, I, you know, I, I sort of see what other sink and if I’ve got the time to collaborate in that way, I’m happy to take responsibility for the decision and I’m happy to make a decision without that. But I think it’s really good to be able to include others in decision making purely because I think multiple brains get a better answer, you know, we brainstorm and we come up with something better than what was initially on the table. So if you’ve got the time, that’s what I think. So authenticity, being vulnerable and I guess what’s called a coaching approach is probably the. I’ve now seen three things

JJ Pinter: 49:36 that would probably be why you liked some. Those are some themes with Bernay Brown, right? So probably,

Megan Davidson: 49:41 yeah, there is definitely. I was hoping to get her out to Australia. I’ve put the request out. Who knows? I said to her, I will say to her team that um, we don’t. Firstly when she comes you can plan it in Australian holiday in 2019, 2020 whenever she wants. So we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.

JJ Pinter: 50:01 Yeah. I don’t know. She’s a, she’s a pretty busy lady these days, but

Megan Davidson: 50:05 yeah, I know I’ve heard there are worst places to visit in Austria. Yeah, exactly right. Yep.

JJ Pinter: 50:12 So gender integration in the military is, is happening real time in the American military and it’s been a big topic maybe the last 10 years, something like that. Traditionally what was considered to be combat arms branch were male only and then essentially, you know, we, we got fighting these new wars where there was not really traditional front lines like we all there used to be and everything got really blurry and then at this point I think there’s, there’s almost. The policy has been changed. So there’s such that there’s virtually full integration, but it just, it hasn’t actually happened in practice everywhere. Is a similar thing happening in the Australian military or, or not so much? Or has it already happened? So

Megan Davidson: 51:01 the law changed are now. Good question. I think I, I can’t guarantee but it’s about seven or eight years, seven to 10 years ago. Even probably that and integration is occurring but the numbers aren’t there so it’s probably lucky like us in that although the doors are open, full integration has not occurred, but also the recruitment numbers aren’t there. So still they haven’t met the quota of, you know, the goals that they’re setting for how many females should be in the military as he is let alone in the arms. Cause sorry, I guess it’s going to take time. Like anything, it’s the first point was to change the law, you know, so it would be interesting. Oh, sorry you go.

JJ Pinter: 51:46 I was gonna say I have a younger sister who is a army officer, so this is something that I’m, I’m, I’m interested in.

Megan Davidson: 51:53 Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think, I don’t know if you’ve had a female that’s been killed in operations. Have you had that?

JJ Pinter: 51:59 I’m sure I. I’ll have to Google really quickly, but I’m sure that there’s been. Yeah,

Megan Davidson: 52:05 because that hasn’t happened in Australia. Yes. And I think that will be a moment, you know, that people really realize, oh, okay, that’s the decision we made, but you know, I, it would just be interesting response from the public when that does occur because I mean it’ll be a different conversation. I guess

JJ Pinter: 52:23 I’m googling this really quickly just because I. Yeah,

JJ Pinter: 52:29 I want to make sure that we kind of pay appropriate. It’s three percent of total fatalities have been female and the war on terrorism, so for some, for sure, but not, not a, not a large amount. So Megan, this has been a really fun podcast for me. I love learning real time and talking to interesting people and having interesting conversation. So thanks so much for joining us today and thanks so much for the work that you’re doing and I can’t wait to keep up with with you guys and to see how the organization grows and I can’t wait to rock my buddy up Australia shirt when it, when it shows up here, I have to still a funny story and you can ask me for my address to send me a shirt. And I, and I sent it to her. She sent me a note back and said, got it. I’ll post it. And I took me a second. I was like, host it, my, my thought if anything went to instagram. And I was like, oh, okay. I know what’s going on here. She’s going to ship it to me.

Megan Davidson: 53:30 Ship it to you. Yeah. So I, yeah, that’s what we call it here. We just got to post it. Yeah, you should get that in the next couple of days. Hopefully. I, hopefully it hasn’t gone around the world. It’s gone direct. You’ll be proud they were of the buddy up Australia tee-shirts. Um, but thank you. Thank you so much for this opportunity. And we’re, we’re super excited as well, so to watch our organization grow and help as many people as we can in the process. So yeah, watch this space.

JJ Pinter: 53:55 Well, I’m sure you’re going to do fantastic work. If you’ve been listening to this and you want to learn more about buddy up Australia, I will put the link to their organization’s website in the show notes and then I’m sure you’re probably on all the various forms of social media yet. Check them out. I mean they, uh, they do all standing work and I’m sure that they’re going to continue to do that as, as we progressed through the years here. So, Megan, huge. Thanks for all you do. I really appreciate you giving me some of your time this morning and keep it up.

Megan Davidson: 54:25 Thank you. And goodnight.

Comments on Episode 110 – Team RWB Down Under? The Founding of Buddy Up Australia with Megan Davidson