A pillar of the Millicent township, former soldier Chris Mathias now dedicates his time to serving his local community.
Heavily involved in the local CFS, Men’s Shed and RSL, Mr Mathias said after a long and diverse career, he is passionate about sharing his knowledge and skills with those around him.
“I served in the Australian Defence Force for over 20 years before a career in the Tasmanian Police and State Government, but in retirement I am no less busy,” Mr Mathias said.
“I joined the ADF because my family has a long history of service and when I was very young my grandfather would delight me with stories from his time serving in World War One and World War Two.
“I served initially as a radio operator in the Signals Corps and became a paratrooper at age 18. I worked in aircraft with the Air Force and on ships with the Navy, so I had lots of adventures in many parts of the world.
I made a lot of friends and I have great memories from all the places I went. These days I enjoy being able to pass my knowledge and skills on to the next generation.”
Mr Mathias said the skills he learned during his service assisted him as he embarked on a career after the military.
“In the Army you become very task oriented and learn to work well independently, as well as part of a team, so when I moved into civilian employment, those abilities proved to be a real asset.” he said.
“I had technical communication skills that were transferable, but it was more than that. The management skills and driven work ethic were all things that helped when I left the Army.”
Mr Mathias said that after he retired and moved to Millicent in the state’s South East, no sooner had the boxes been unpacked than he dived right into community life.
“The people in town were so friendly and welcoming when we arrived, it was as if we had been there forever.” he said.
“We hadn’t been in town all that long, but I was asked to mentor students at the local high school.”
They tended to be students who had an interest in military service, so I guess I was selected to assist them in that respect.
I had been a volunteer firefighter in Tasmania when we were living there so I decided to join the local CFS brigade, to continue helping the community.
“Within a year of moving to town and joining the local RSL, I was asked to be President, which I still am today, along with also serving as secretary of the local Men’s Shed. Serving in both of these capacities also led me to help raise and run the local Suicide Prevention Network.”
Mr Mathias said the sense of community in a regional town is what keeps him passionate about giving back to the community.
“Everyone knows everyone and we really are a close-knit town,” he said.
“Just like when I was in the Army, it was a family and a country town is similar. There is a real sense of belonging and we all pitch in to help each other when things aren’t the best.
“The Men’s Shed for example is a great place where men can come and be together, which is good for our mental health. Sharing experiences we have been through is important and helps us cope with life’s challenges.”
“And again this is something I am really passionate about and in my role at the RSL we are working on getting veterans involved in other groups within the community, so they aren’t isolated or alone.
“The sense of camaraderie and mateship is strong in the military, and that continues post-service in the veteran community. Millicent is a town with its own community spirit, and that’s why I enjoy living here.”
Mr Mathias’ story is part of an ongoing story telling series by Veterans SA. To read more stories of how those with military experience living in South Australia are contributing to our community click here.