Counselling Service - VVCS (Now OPEN ARMS)
SUMMARY OF THE HISTORY AND FORMATION OF THE VVCS
Australian Forces withdrawn from South Vietnam.
Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia (VVAA) formed in response to protests
that the Government, the Repatriation Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs
were inadequately catering for the special disabilities and treatment needs of
Increasing publicity of Vietnam veterans' health and emotional problems proved
difficult to handle within normal departmental arrangements.
Request from VVAA for a
grant‑in‑aid to set up a special counselling service.
13 Jan 1981 CABINET
DECISION: That Vietnam
veterans should be provided with a limited counselling service to facilitate
access to community services including Repatriation services where appropriate
and practicable. Minister's press statement dated 14/1/81 stated that the new
counselling service was established because it was recognised that some Vietnam
veterans had problems that cannot be adequately handled within normal
14 Jan 1981
Free hospital treatment offered to Vietnam veterans. Press release also
mentioned a proposed counselling service.
Interim counselling arrangements made for Vietnam veterans by Social Workers
within the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Rejected by VVAA as an extension of
12‑23 Feb 1981
"Things to do for Vietnam veterans" ‑ departmental brainstorm.
Senator A J Messner, Minister for Veterans' Affairs visits the Veteran
Administration in the USA.
Submission to Cabinet for the establishment of a counselling service for Vietnam
veterans and their families. After consultation with the RSL,
establishment of a separate counselling service for
Vietnam Veterans (VVCS) with high
professional standards was announced.
The VVCS to be monitored
by a National Advisory Committee reporting directly to the Minister.
Setting up of the National Advisory Committee on the VVCS
under the chairmanship of Major General A Morrison AO DSO MBE (Ex‑Services
member of the Repatriation Commission.
Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment
inquiry set up to report on
"Pesticides and the Health of Australian Vietnam Veterans" (reported November
1982). Report rejected by the VVAA as biased. Call for a Royal Commission.
21 Jan 1982
The first VVCS Centre
opened in Adelaide.
15 Feb 1982
more Vietnam veteran initiatives ‑ press release included:
VVCS referral for
VVCS referral of
wives and children to Repatriation General Hospitals for emergency treatment
veterans emergency treatment in country hospitals ‑ costs to the Department of
variations to studies
of Vietnam veterans' health.
15 Feb 1982
Perth VVCS centre opened.
19 May 1982
Hobart VVCS centre opened.
Melbourne VVCS centre opened.
Amendment Bill presented to Parliament.
Setting up of the
independent Committee of Review and Evaluation of the VVCS under
the chairmanship of Professor Ian Waterhouse.
Australian Labor Party platform ‑ to extend the VVCS.
1983 Labor Government elected. New Minister for
Veterans' Affairs Senator the Hon A T Gietzelt.
Canberra VVCS centre
Royal Commission on the Use and Effects of Chemical Agents on the
Australian Personnel in Vietnam set up to inquire into all aspects of
Vietnam veterans' fears and difficulties, under the chairmanship of Mr Justice
Waterhouse Committee interim recommendations accepted extension of the VVCS for
at least another three years.
21 Oct 1983
Townsville VVCS centre opened.
further VVCS centres opened.
22 Aug 1984
Waterhouse Report Part 1 tabled in Parliament. 39 of the 40
recommendations accepted. Tabling
statement included a restructuring of the NAC to ensure
independent accountability of the VVCS to the Minister, under the chairmanship
of Mr Les Harvey.
9 April 1985
New counsellor structure
approved by the Public Service Board. New structure staffed on temporary/acting
Report on the Evatt Royal Commission published, including
recommendations on chemical exposure and its possible health effects, mental
health and the VVCS.
19 Aug 1985
CABINET DECISION No. 6527: "No link". Not committed to implementing
any individual recommendations at this stage.
Interviews for appointments of all counsellors to the new establishment.
Final report of Waterhouse Committee. Four further recommendations
Minister's direction that VVCS staff and funding to be under the control of the
National Director, VVCS in a National Office.
First legislative base for the VVCS provided by the passage of the Veterans'
Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA), Part V, Section 92.
New Policy Proposal ‑ "Extension of the VVCS Counselling Services to Country
Veterans". Recommended but not funded.
Trial project started in Cairns ‑ the use of local professional practitioners at
Emergency accommodation centre
(Angus House) in Brisbane funded as a joint venture.
Average staffing level of 32
provided to the VVCS, although actually staffed at 37.
Australian Labor Party platform ‑ maintain the expansion of the VVCS.
New Policy Proposal ‑ "Counselling Services in
Remote Country Areas for Vietnam Veterans".
‑ This proposal did not
have a high priority. Requested a review of VVCS operations in order to assess
whether VVCS staffing of 39 could be justified, or whether outreach to country
areas could be made without an increase of staff.
24 March 1987
First Assistant Secretary, (Health Services Planning) addressed the NAC on the
subject of a review of VVCS staffing levels.
Departmental Review of Staffing and Activities submitted to
Commission, NAC and Minister. Total of 41 staff recommended before extension to
extra country counselling.
Welcome Home Parade,
12 Oct 1987
Notification by the Department that VVCS average staffing level would be
stabilised at 35. 41 "to hold the fort" pending consideration of the Review in
the context of the budgetary process.
Trial project in Launceston approved ‑ VVCS counsellor outposted from Hobart
centre for outreach purposes.
Senator the Hon A T Gietzelt
retired. New Minister for Veterans' Affairs the Hon Ben Humphreys.
Major General W B (Digger) James AO MBE MC appointed as Chairman of the NAC.
1 Jan 1988
VVAA letter to the Prime Minister alleging deterioration in the independence of
Launceston VVCS regional centre opened.
Public inquiry set up by the House of Representatives' Standing Committee
on Community Affairs into the provision of counselling and
ancillary services for Vietnam veterans.
31 March 1988
Submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee by DVA, NAC and
22 April 1988
Commission Response to the 1987 Review of Staffing and Activities, recommending
in a Cabinet Submission that the staffing level of the VVCS should be 35 plus 6
for a country counselling outreach project.
3 May 1988 CABINET
DECISION No. 11022: on submission number S 698 ‑Response to the Evatt
("Agent Orange") Royal Commission report and the Hogg report.
Commission main conclusions on chemicals and health endorsed
VVCS services for
country veterans to be increased
resource costs to be
absorbed within DVA budget
the Evatt Royal Commission not accepted were the automatic acceptance of claims,
changes to the VEA and a wider role for the VVCS (rebut Agent Orange "myth"
11 May 1988
Proposed Improved VVCS Outreach Services Strategic Plan approved by the NAC.
19 May 1988
Government Response to the Evatt Royal Commission and Hogg Report
announced. The major conclusions of the Royal Commission were endorsed.
chemical exposure is
not likely to have caused long term effects or birth defects
services for country counselling ‑ 6 extra staff for this purpose
joint venture seeding
grants for half‑way homes for veterans ‑ $400,000 over two years
assistance for a
Vietnam veteran monument
DVA data base on
mortality to be maintained
National Health and
Medical Research Committee (NH&MRC)
on cancer associated with Dapsone funded.
27 Sept 1988
Improved VVCS outreach services project approved by the Minister.
Report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Community
Affairs Inquiry into counselling and ancillary services for
Vietnam veterans "After the March ".
27 recommendations, including:
(VVCS) to be a statutory office
continuation of VVCS
for the next 10 to 15 years
total of 60 staff for
VVCS, (including 5 at National Officer and a base staff of 39 before country
outreach project requirements)
3 Oct 1989
Departmental submission to the Minister on the "After the March" report
presented to the NAC for review. The NAC made 19 recommendations for
the VVCS should not
be organisationally linked with other departmental health services provided to
veterans, but remain a discreet service
utilisation needs as
a measure of demand should be balanced by reference to the assessed needs of the
NAC advice on all
4 Oct 1989
Government Response to the "After the March " report tabled
in Parliament by the Minister. All recommendations accepted with the exception
Statutory office ‑ an
amendment to the VEA proposed instead
purchase or lease of
VVCS staff complement
of 60. A complement of 49 was proposed, to be reconsidered once the new staff
had settled down
NH&MRC funded Epidemiological Study on the Mealth and Psychological Status
of Vietnam Veterans by Sydney University in conjunction with VVCS
commenced with training of VVCS counsellors.
14 March 1990
An NAC review of DVA outreach activities found a difference between DVA outreach
in coordination of community services for veterans and VVCS outreach which deals
not only with veterans but also with their families, and primarily provides
ongoing counselling services for both groups as well as referral to community
Departmental instruction ‑ National Director, VVCS to report directly to
Commissioner Ralph in future, while the VVCS to remain within the Health
16 Nov 1990
Albury/Wodonga VVCS regional centre opened by Commissioner Ralph.
Letter of complaint from National President of the VVAA to Prime Minister
regarding lack of government commitment to "After the March" report
announcements of October 1989, particularly 1990‑91 cuts in VVCS staffing levels
from 49 to 47 and delay in introducing VEA legislation for the VVCS and NAC.
3 Oct 1992
Opening of the
Vietnam Veteran Memorial
24 March 1993
New Minister for Veterans' Affairs Senator the Hon John Faulkner.
The Minister for Veterans' Affairs announced as budget
initiatives, funding for the enhancement of the country outreach program
and the establishment of a National after hours telephone counselling service.
Minister for Veterans' Affairs the Hon Con Sciacca.
18 April 1994
Dr Neville O'Connor appointed as Chairman of the NAC following the resignation
of Major General W B James AO MBE MC.
The Minister for Veterans' Affairs announced the introduction of the Younger
Veterans Package, an initiative included in the 1994‑95 budget. The package
is to provide S20.6m over four years. The package included a number of
inter‑linked but stand alone components. These were:
an increase in joint
ventures to be expanded to assist younger veterans
a mortality study of
younger veterans to be conducted by Dr Keith Horsley (DVA Benefits Program)
a counselling and
readjustment component which required extra resources for VVCS centres
including a National PTSD Centre to prepare treatment protocols and standards,
coordinate and evaluate programs and conduct research
a National Steering
Committee and a Clinical Reference Committee on PTSD
PTSD Assessment Units
in each State for inpatient and outpatient treatment and management
1 July 1994
The National after hours telephone crisis counselling service ‑ "Vetline"
was established. This replaced a number of pilot programs
previously tested in a number of States.
6 Oct 1994
Southport VVCS regional centre opened.
21 Nov 1994
Lismore VVCS regional centre opened.
6 Dec 1994
The Minister for Veterans' Affairs announced to the NAC that while he was unsure
of the outcomes of the restructure of the Department, the VVCS would maintain
its individual status. The Minister also said that he saw the NAC as his
watchdog to recognise and comment on problems impacting on the VVCS.
The report of the Clinical Evaluation of the VVCS was released.
The report contained 31 recommendations.
The Repatriation Commission replied to the Clinical Evaluation of the VVCS
strongly endorsing the views expressed in the Review. The Commission instructed
that the recommendations in the Review are to be fully implemented.
21 March 1995
The NAC discussed the recommendations of the Clinical valuation of the
VVCS and submitted the following recommendations to the Minister:
that eligibility for
services include family members and veterans of Australia's allies and that the
interpretation of eligibility as "family" should be left to the counsellor
supervision be arranged to ensure the high standard of clinical practice
recommended in the Report, especially during a new counsellor's probationary
that details of all
group programs be exchanged between VVCS centres to facilitate standards and
that the primary
focus of services be therapeutic counselling that can incorporate case
management as part of the continuity of client care
The report of the Evaluation of Vetline by Dr Richard Bryant and Professor Kevin
McConchey was released. The report contained a number of recommendations
described in terms of:
The major recommendation was that
Vetline continue to operate as a national after hours telephone counselling
New Minister for Veterans' Affairs the Hon Bruce Scott MP.
VVCS commenced operations at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast.
Official opening of the new VAN/VVCS office for the Albury/Wodonga region at
relocated premises in Wodonga.
Newcastle VVCS regional centre commenced operations.
1 July 1997
The name of the National After Hours Telephone Crisis Line changed from "Vetline"
to "Veterans Line". The Salvation Army was contracted to operate Veterans
Line for three years.
Official opening of the new VAN/VVCS office at Maroochydore.
The report of the Community Health Accreditation and Standards Program review of
the VVCS was released.
9 Oct 1997
Official opening of the VVCS office at Newcastle.
23 Feb 1998
The Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service Enterprise Agreement 1997‑98 was
certified by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Benefits and
arrangements were back dated to 13 November 1997.
The Minister for Veterans' Affairs released the report ‑ "Mortality of Vietnam
Veterans: the Veteran Cohort Study", a self reporting survey which has
investigated the mortality experience of the 59,000 Australian males who served
in the Vietnam War.
A review and restructure of administrative positions within the Service was
completed, approved and implemented.
A restructure of professional positions including the establishment of Deputy
Director and Clinical Coordinator positions and the formation of a National
Executive Group management committee was completed, approved and implemented.
Following the successful establishment of Heartsafe healthy lifestyle and
fitness programs in Queensland, the program was extended nationally.
Throughout 1999 the VVCS assisted
DVA to develop a comprehensive response to the Vietnam Veterans Health Study.
2 Nov 1999
The Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service Enterprise Agreement 1999 - 2001 was
certified by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Benefits and
arrangements were back dated to 1 September 1999.
17 Apr 2000
Memorandum of Understanding between the VVCS and the Australian Defence Force (ADF)
on the provision of counselling services to ADF members was signed.
Throughout 2000 there was
increasing involvement with the ADF through the Defence Links Project.
The Government allocated $32.4m over four years in the budget to expand VVCS
activities as a response to the Vietnam Veterans Health Study. Initiatives
implementation of the Sons and Daughters Project
full funding of the
national Heart Health Program
expansion of other
VVCS group programs including residential lifestyle courses and other
1 July 2000
The Salvation Army successfully tendered to retain operation of Veterans Line
for the next three years.
The NAC was restructured to include a representative of partners of veterans and
representatives from the ADF and the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental
Mr Brian McKenzie OAM appointed as chairman of the NAC following the retirement
of Dr Neville O' Connor.
Introduction of the Alcohol
Management Program in response to YV Health Study aimed at reducing alcohol
related abuse in the veteran community.
Change to the Veterans Entitlement Act 1986 to extend eligibility to adult sons
and daughters of Vietnam veterans.
26 Nov 2001
New Minister for Veterans'
Affairs, the Hon Danna Vale MP.
29 May 2002
The VVCS gains Quality
Improvement Council (QIC) accreditation until 8 February 2004 in recognition of
meeting the QIC Accreditation Program required for the AHCSS Core and Community
and Primary Health Care Services Module.
Letter from the National
President of the VVAA to the Minister for Veterans Affairs suggesting that a
gifting process (pending a name change) for VVCS be implemented (with
conditions) and expressing concern with changes to the management structure
where Mr Wes Kilham, National Director had been elevated to a position of Branch
head and the implications this may have on the independence of the service and a
possible ‘conflict of interest’.
Mrs Margaret Rehorn reappointed
as a member of the NAC for a 2 year period.
A review of ‘Veterans Line’ is
conducted by a committee comprising Dr Des Perry, Dr Richard Roberts, Ms Chris
Sloane and NAC Chair Brian McKenzie
13 Feb 2003
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
releases Report of the Review of Veterans' Entitlements conducted by a Committee
headed by the Hon. John Clarke QC. The report put forward the view
The objective of
rehabilitation should be to restore veterans to their optimal level of function,
commensurate with their service-related disabilities, in order to provide them
with better quality of life, maximised vocational outcomes and reduced
dependency on financial disability compensation.
The Committee also:
recommends that DVA
should pursue its efforts to provide and promote rehabilitation services with
the same vigour that it applies to the other elements of disability compensation
on the improvements provided through the expansion of VVCS programs (31.102,
31.115). It noted the favourable comments about the VVCS Heart Health Program
and felt that a "limited extension to veterans who have a professionally
assessed need for the program and who receive disability compensation at the
special rate is warranted." (31.171-172)
recommends that "DVA
should undertake further controlled investigations into the inclusion of spouses
in the treatment of veterans and the utility of lifestyle-management courses as
a first step in the treatment of trauma related problems within the veteran
There should be a
greater focus on socially oriented programs and assistance. (31.174.).
There are behavioral
disadvantages in having an age at which veterans are presumed to be
There is a need for
rehabilitation medicine expertise in DVA (31.202).
The inadequacies of
the current arrangements include:
the lack of early
the focus on seeking
pensions to the exclusion of restoring functioning;
the voluntary nature
of the existing systems;
poor knowledge within
the veteran community of available rehabilitation. (A full list is at 31.138).
rehabilitation under two quite different systems, the Military Compensation
Scheme, which provided compulsory rehabilitation where appropriate and the DVA
system, where rehabilitation is voluntary and is often initiated by the
veteran. Some veterans receive benefits under both schemes. (31.88, 31.203-4)
There should be a once only election for those with dual entitlements to select
the scheme under which they wish to receive compensation.
rehabilitation include the difficulty of diagnosing mental health disorders.
"Although DVA has medical advisers who are involved in the examination of some
compensation claims, it does not have specialist mental health advisers."
VVCS commences the process to
maintain its QIC accreditation by undergoing a new evaluation process conducted
by Quality Management Services.
25 March 2003
Minister for Veterans' Affairs releases report on the Gulf War Study.
Repatriation Commission agrees
to the full time implementation of the Crisis Assistance Program's short-term
emergency accommodation assistance across Australia.
The NAC introduces site visits
to VVCS client groups prior to meetings in order to maintain direct contact with
and gather feedback from clients.
1 July 2003
The Salvation Army (Salvo Care
Line) is awarded the contract to operate Veterans Line for a further 3 years
ending 30 June 2006.
Outreach Program counsellors
enter into a revised 3 year agreement to comply with the requirements of The New
Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999.
Professor Richard Bryant
appointed as a member of the NAC to replace Dr Brian O'Toole, who had served on
the committee since 22 February 1985.
4 Dec 2003
The Military Rehabilitation and
Compensation Bill is introduced to Parliament.
19 Dec 2003
VVCS Enterprise Agreement
2004-05 certified by the Australia Industrial Relations Commission effective
from 1 January 2004.
The NAC recommends the appointment of a Peacekeeper or Peacemaker to the
committee in recognition of the expanded clientele using the service
Mr Martin Carr was appointed to
the NAC to replace Mr John Purser after 7 years service.
22 Oct 2004
The NAC strongly supports a process of accreditation for the VVCS, but agreed
that a better method of achieving it must be investigated.
New Minister for Veterans'
Affairs, the Hon De-Anne Kelly Vale MP. New Secretary for Veterans’ Affairs
appointed Mr Mark Sullivan.