Old Flinderians Work Together in Peace-Keeping Team in Africa

It was special for us at Flinders to learn that two of our Old Flinderian alumni are working together on a project in Africa. David Harty (Class of 2003) and Steph Palfrey-Sneddon (nee Costa) (Class of 2009) are currently deployed on ‘Operation ASLAN’, the Australian Defence Forces contribution to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

They took the time to share some reflections of life beyond Flinders, and explain more about the project they are both working on in Sudan.

“Our small Australian contingent, comprised of 20 Australian military personnel, work in various parts of the United Nations mission to support peace and security, and the UN mandate to ‘protect civilians, monitor and investigate human rights violations, and create conditions enabling the delivery of humanitarian assistance’. Major Dave Harty is currently employed as a HQ Plans Officer and is responsible for introducing new all-terrain vehicles to the UN military force and also undertakes planning for contingency operations. In the building next door, another Old Flindarian, Captain Steph Palfrey-Sneddon works in the Joint Operations Centre, where she is responsible for providing situational awareness to mission leadership and supporting the mission’s response in the event of a crisis.”

David Harty (Class of 2003)

What does life look like for you now?
I currently work for the Australian Army as a Mechanical Engineer at the Major rank. I live in Sydney but have now been on operations in South Sudan for the last two months. My first child is on the way, and I arrive home approximately one month before the birth. My wife and I have two dogs and enjoy an active lifestyle, spending time with friends and family.

What was a favourite Flinders moment?
My favourite moment was graduating Year 12 and saying goodbye to all my friends in the “Flinders tunnel”.

Do you have a particular role model or inspirational figure from Flinders or now?
Principal Mr Anthony Vincent always impressed me with his speeches and I like to think I channel my inner-Vincent whenever I’m giving orders to my soldiers.

How easy was it to decide what to do in life?
It was never easy to decide – in Year 12 I only knew that I had interests in woodwork and mechanical systems. I applied for an Engineering Degree (QUT) and whilst undertaking that, then decided that the Army sounded like a more enjoyable opportunity. I reached 15 years in Defence this year, and I can safely say that deciding what my future should look like is still a mystery to me.

Did your further study or career go as you had planned?
Of course not but I took lots of opportunities when they presented themselves and made a big effort to overcome the many challenges of my military career to be in a position that I am very happy with. I don’t think people should expect life to go as planned – my experience suggests the best adventures are the ones that come unplanned.

What advice do you have for current students? 

School, education, study are all paths that lead to good career opportunities. But it can be easy to forget the importance of good character. Wealth, love and recognition are really just byproducts of highly effective and good people. Set difficult but rewarding goals and remember that personal growth comes from sacrifice, seeking and overcoming challenges, and learning how to be a better human being. Learn, question, seek understanding and be humble enough to know when you might be wrong. Finally, never underestimate the power of people and the relationships you maintain – successful people surround themselves with good people.

Steph Palfrey-Sneddon (nee Costa) (Class of 2009)

Steph Palfrey-Sneddon OFA

What does life look like for you now? 

At the moment, it looks like waking up from a rather disruptive night of antimalarial medication side effects and going to work (occasionally involving a sighting of Hades, the resident Patas Monkey who roams the base) in a very diverse office with colleagues from around the world who have started to feel like a second family. When I come home, it will be to a new house and posting in Brisbane with my husband, Harry.

What was a favourite Flinders moment? 

Mr Bull’s Agriculture classes and watching Erol the Emu, who at the time was going through a phase where he appeared to believe he was one of the goats, and would splash happily under the hose on a hot day.

Do you have a particular role model from Flinders? 

My Year 7 teacher, Mr Timms, whose patience at my consistently-absent homework becomes more impressive the older I get. His message of ‘emotional resilience’ was a particularly useful reminder during various stages of military training.

How easy was it to decide what to do in life?
I’ve changed my mind a few times and I’m sure it’ll change again in the future – accepting that this is a normal part of being a human has made the process a lot easier!

Did your further study or career go as you had planned? 

I graduated from Flinders with big plans to study Zoology and spend my life working with primates. Four years later, I completed my Bachelor of Science and ended up in the Army, so in many ways you could say I got exactly what I asked for, though the species I initially had in mind is slightly different!

What advice do you have for current students?
Trust that you are exactly where you need to be in life and that success looks different for everybody.

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