More youths are opting to join the army cadets, but what do they get out of it?

The Australian Army Cadets (AAC) used to be in every school and every country town.

There were around 46,000 cadets in Australia in 1970, but fewer than 15,000 by the early 2000s.

However, numbers are rebounding as young people sign up to new units established around Australia in recent years.

So what is driving them to volunteer their time in the program?

Elise Cox says the AAC is teaching her valuable leadership skills.(Supplied)

School student Elise Cox, who travels more than an hour to Horsham for sessions, said it was teaching her to be more resilient and independent in her daily life.

“I’ve learnt lots of new skills and stepped my way up the leadership ladder,” she said. 

“It’s given me a lot of confidence and helped me to better communicate with my peers and make lots of new friends from around Victoria.

“Cadets really helps me learn life lessons that I can take back home, that I can use at school or on camps.”

Since 2017, the AAC has added more than 40 units to now have more than 250 units in communities and schools around the country, according to the Department of Defence.

It said there were now more than 19,000 youths around the country participating in the program.

The Horsham unit started late last year, bringing Victoria’s cadet numbers to 4,000.

Skills to help with employment

The officer commanding 316CU Horsham, Michael Byrne, said the western Victorian city used to have an Air Force Cadet Unit but that was disbanded a few years ago.

He said within 24 hours of opening the portal for expressions of interest in the AAC program, eight future cadets had registered.

Captain (AAC) Byrne was expecting at least another 40 sign-ups once the school term started.

The cadets learn skills such as navigation, bush craft and first aid.(Supplied)

He said the cadets program was aimed at youth development, with members aged between 12 and 18, and girls were now taking on many of the leadership roles.

“It’s not all drills … that’s part of it but also building teamwork and self-discipline,” he said.

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