Sandi Laaksonen-Sherrin

Sandi Laaksonen-Sherrin

PhD Candidate
Arts, Design & Architecture
Social Policy Research Centre

Supervisors: Prof Ilan Katz & Dr Lindy Edwards

Sandi brings a strong educational and professional background in research, government and change management. Her career started in biological sciences, working with anything from penguins to dolphins, and from forests to beaches across NSW and Victoria. She then undertook a number of project management and business improvement roles in public health, indigenous employment and entrepreneurship, and the veteran reintegration sector. This experience covered a broad range of social impact issues.

From 2017-2018, Sandi spearheaded research for the multiple award-winning NSW Veterans Employment Program. The research insights gained by the program helped to shape veteran employment initiatives across NSW and Australia more broadly. Through this work Sandi advised all levels of government, ex-service organisations and the private sector to shape strategic direction to meet the current and future needs of the Defence community.

In her experience across six different government departments, Sandi has led local and remote teams through a range of improvement initiatives. As Transition Manager then Assistant Director within Defence Community Organisation (now Defence Member and Family Support, in the Department of Defence), Sandi often advocated for Defence families in areas such as health, finances, housing and relocation, veteran and spouse employment. Her main aim was to ensure each case was resolved as efficiently as possible, reducing negative impacts on the ADF member and their family. In a large-scale project, Sandi led the design and implementation of a new service model to deliver personalised transition support to ADF Reservists on Operation Bushfire Assist 2019-2020. This commitment to service was recognised with an Australia Day Medallion in 2021.

Sandi commenced a role as the head of Defence Families of Australia in June 2021. She was appointed the inaugural Defence Family Advocate of Australia, representing over 80,000 military families posted across our nation and the world. As part of this role, she reported directly to the Chief of the Defence Force and the Minister for Defence Personnel. She was involved in representing family matters to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, and was responsible for transformative change of the organisation to enhance its effectiveness. Under her leadership the organisation achieved over 80 advocacy goals, influencing all areas of policy and practice which relate to military families.

Sandi is undertaking a Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) researching the veteran reintegration sector in Australia. It is her hope that this work will continue to provide insights about the sector, and highlight opportunities for improved efficiency and better outcomes for the Defence community.

  • Social Impact
  • Systems Thinking Models
  • Military wellbeing systems