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New history of DVA now available (Vetaffairs Summer 2019)

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An array of commemorative activities have been held over the last two years to mark the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the Repatriation Commission and the Repatriation Department – what is now DVA. These activities include a book titled More than the Last Shilling, commissioned by the department and launched by DVA Secretary Liz Cosson AM CSC on 7 November.

In this new book, author Professor Philip Payton of Flinders University tells the story of the repatriation system in Australia from 1994 to 2018. A distinguished historian and Navy veteran, Professor Payton builds on an earlier volume, The Last Shilling, which outlines the department’s history up to 1994. The books take their names from a speech made by Opposition Leader Andrew Fisher on 31 July 1914. He declared that ‘Australians will stand beside the mother country to help and defend her to our last man and our last shilling’.

Professor Payton uses a wealth of primary material to trace the changes DVA has dealt with since 1994. At that time, the department considered that one day its work and that of the Repatriation Commission would be complete, the metaphorical ‘last shilling’ having been paid to the last veteran.

a man and a woman unveil a book.

The book’s author Professor Philip Payton and DVA Secretary Liz Cosson AM CSC unveil More than the Last Shilling.

However, by the early years of the new millennium, it was apparent that DVA’s assumptions had been mistaken. A succession of ‘out of area’ and regional operations, including peace-keeping commitments, had begun quietly in the 1980s but in the following decades grew in frequency and intensity. 

As a consequence, a ‘fourth wave’ of veterans emerged: young men and women who brought with them a wide range of new issues and expectations. At the same time, DVA acquired responsibilities for military compensation and rehabilitation, leading to the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 and the creation of a new Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission to sit alongside the existing Repatriation Commission.

Finally, in 2015 DVA embarked on a ‘Transformation’ journey to modernise infrastructure and processes and change the working culture within DVA.

In this book, Professor Payton brings together facts, events and anecdotes to illuminate a story that sheds new light on a significant aspect of Australia’s recent history. The book can be downloaded free of charge from Melbourne University Press online

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