History of The National Advisory Committee of the VVCS - Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service

In July 1981 the Government decided to establish a VVCS - Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service along the lines similar to the outreach program used in the United States of America.  The minister decided to establish an advisory committee with a role to:

"To advise the Minister on the establishment and operation of the Counselling service and offer other advice on staff appointments, selection of sites for centres and other relevant matters".

The committee comprised five members, four of whom were Vietnam veterans and all had been committee members since the inaugural meeting held on 21 September 1981:

Major General A.Morrison AO DSO MBE, Chairman NAC
Mr Peter Young, Returned Soldiers League
Mr Phill Thompson, Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia
Dr Trevor Anderson, Director Elizabeth Street Clinic Melbourne
Dr Myles Keheo, Chief Director Medical Services DVA

In August 1984 the Waterhouse Report Part 1 was tabled in Parliament. 39 of the 40 recommendations were accepted. The 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.

The Minister announced a reconstituted membership in the Senate on 24 October 1984.  The Committee was reconstituted to ensure the independence of the VVCS and no longer includes persons from either the Repatriation Commission or the department of Veterans Affairs.  The role of the NAC was changed to provide the Minister with advice on policy matters relating to the operation of the VVCS, addressing in particular

  • Delivery of effective and efficient counselling to Vietnam Veterans and their immediate family;
  • Development of professional counselling programs to assist Veterans and their dependants with their health and social problems.

Meetings were also to be held quarterly with one meeting each to be held at a VVCS centre.

The NAC approved the Proposed Improved VVCS Outreach Services Strategic Plan on 11 May 1988.

The Departmental submission to the Minister on the "After the March" report was presented to the NAC for review.  On 3 Oct 1989 the NAC made 19 recommendations for amendment, including:

  • 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 Vietnam veterans
  • NAC advice on all policy matters

In 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 services.

In 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
  • that closer supervision be arranged to ensure the high standard of clinical practice recommended in the Report, especially during a new counsellor's probationary period
  • that details of all group programs be exchanged between VVCS centres to facilitate standards and implementation
  • that the primary focus of services be therapeutic counselling that can incorporate case management as part of the continuity of client care

The NAC was restructured in October 2000 to include a representative of partners of veterans and representatives from the ADF and the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health.

In July 2003 the NAC introduced site visits to VVCS client groups, consultations with Ex-service organisation representatives, DVA service providers, welfare/pension officers and advocates prior to the meetings in order to maintain direct contact with and gather feedback from clients and stakeholders on VVCS services.

In December 2003 the NAC recommended the appointment of a Peacekeeper or Peacemaker to the committee in recognition of the expanded clientele using the service.  A Peacekeeper / Peacemaker representative was appointed in October 2004.

In the same year the NAC strongly supported a process of accreditation for the VVCS, but agreed that a better method of achieving it must be investigated.

In 2005 Mrs Bronwyn Fullick was appointed to the committee replacing Mrs Rehorn.

In May 2006 the committee recommended that the VVCS impose no age limit on the sons and daughters of veterans, but limits the service to presenting problems deemed associated with the military service of their parents.  The Chairman also wrote to the Minister recommending that following a formal process of gifting the VVCS to all eligible ex-service  personnel, that the name be changed to “Veteran Counselling Service”, with formally the Vietnam Veteran Counselling Service in small print giving due recognition to its establishment and history.