Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling service, which provides critical support to Australia’s current and ex-service personnel and their families.
Originally known as the Vietnam Veterans’ Counselling Service, the first office opened in Adelaide on this day in 1982.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Andrew Gee said now, as much as ever, Open Arms remains an essential resource.
“More veterans and their families sought support from Open Arms in 2021 than at any time in its 40 year history,” Minister Gee said.
“COVID-19, the start of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, and Australia’s withdrawal from Afghanistan have all created additional distress and anxiety in the veteran community, however Open Arms remains a valuable source of support for so many.
“Our nation should be proud of this world-class service which supports all those who have given so much in service of our nation.
“Over the last 40 years the dedicated staff have provided more than two million sessions to veterans and family members – with over 300,000 sessions in the past year alone.”
“Open Arms now includes a free 24-hour support line, a comprehensive website with a network of more than 1300 mental health professionals and peers across 37 sites in every state and territory.
“Today’s significant milestone is an important opportunity to thank all those who work tirelessly with Open Arms to provide assistance to veterans, families and current service personnel no matter when or where they need it.
“It is also an opportunity to acknowledge the Vietnam veterans who were instrumental in advocating for and setting up the service four decades ago.
“The Vietnam War was a difficult chapter in Australia’s history and the conflict took a heavy toll on those who served, as well as their loved ones. It was out of the wrongs they endured that the lasting legacy of Open Arms was born.
“Their dedication to helping one another has paved the way for the next generation of veterans who can now access the critical support network they created.”
Today is the first of many significant dates for the service, with a number of initiatives celebrating 40 years of support to the veteran community planned for 2022. The offices in Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane will also mark their 40th anniversary this year.
Since its establishment as a service for Vietnam veterans, access to the service has been extended to veterans of all conflicts, their families, and other members of the ADF and ex- service community.
In 2007 the service was rebranded as the Veterans and Veterans’ Families Counselling Service and, as eligibility was further expanded, it became Open Arms in 2018.
In addition to confidential counselling and crisis support, Open Arms also offers Peer Support, Care Coordination, Crisis Accommodation Support, mental health literacy and suicide prevention workshops, Group Treatment Programs and online Living Well resources.