Vietnam Veterans Association

The History of the VVAA

The Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia (VVAA)

Had its advent in the Vietnam Veterans Action Association formed in the late 1979 as a result of the perceptions of Vietnam veterans that exposure to chemicals was causing problems with their health and the health of their children. The chemicals, known by the generic name of Agent Orange included 2,4,5,T and 2,4,D, a by-product of which is the extremely poisonous substance TCDD or dioxin. The problems ranged from minor irritation to lethal, with symptoms such as skin blisters, itching, flushes, nasal problems, blurred vision, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, gastro-urinary muscular and nervous system disorders, cancers and tumours. This was often exacerbated by psychological disorders caused by what was later diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Association fought an uphill battle against government indifference, including the bitter disappointment of the now discredited 1983 Evatt Royal Commission on the Use and Effects of Chemical Agents on Australian Personnel in Vietnam. At the same time there was a very real feeling that the RSL had not accepted the Vietnam veterans, and nor would it pursue the concerns of this group with the vigour they believed that those concerns warranted. This feeling was never stronger than during this period, when the VVAA and the RSL were absolutely opposed.

The gradual successes of the VVAA in the following years came as a result of much hard work and lobbying. The Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service (now Open Arms) was established as a direct result of the action of the VVAA, and it is now an integral part of treatment regimes, not only for veterans, but also for the survivors of traumatic events such as the Port Arthur Massacre.

This was followed by the establishment of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic in Heidelberg, which now extended its treatment to St John of God Hospital in Sydney, together with visiting services to various rural locations. Lifestyle courses permit veterans to contribute to their own well-being, learning how to cope with problems and adapt their lifestyle to best suit themselves.

The VVAA remains a wholly volunteer body, whose sole interest is the welfare of veterans and the families of veterans. It has strong representation in every State and Territory, and very close ties with equivalent organisations in the United States and New Zealand. The relationship between the now R&SL and the Association has matured into one of mutual respect, and many members of the Association also enjoy membership of the R&SL.

Frankston VVA meet on the first Monday of the month in the Simpson Room 2 at 7.30pm if you would like any other details please call Kelvin on 0432473039 or Cheryl on 0409962545