Vietnam Veterans leading with mental health support

The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP
Assistant Minister for Defence
Assistant Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Assistant Minister for the Republic

The Open Arms - Veterans and Families Counselling, Canberra office proudly celebrates its 40th anniversary this week.

Over that time, Open Arms has grown into the government’s premier mental health service for veterans, now operating more than 35 centres across the nation.

In this financial year alone, Open Arms has provided more than 161,000 services, actively supporting over 34,000 veterans and their families.

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Matt Thistlethwaite today paid tribute to the Vietnam veterans who established this vital mental health service.

“The Vietnam War was a lengthy and contentious conflict, and for many of those who served, the struggle continued on their return to Australia,” Minister Thistlethwaite said.

“From that experience, a dedicated group of Vietnam veterans banded together to lobby for a dedicated veterans support service – the Vietnam Veterans’ Counselling Service (VVCS), now Open Arms.

“We are thankful that these veterans and families fought for this vital service, which today helps so many.”

Open Arms National Manager Leonie Nowland is the daughter of a Korean War veteran, and knows first-hand how important mental health support can be for both veterans and veteran families.

“I am so proud to be involved with Open Arms, and witness how it can be a lifeline for those struggling with mental health issues. Any veteran, or veteran family member, can take comfort in the fact that free, specialised support is available to them, day or night,” Ms Nowland said.

Alongside the 40th anniversary of the Canberra office of Open Arms, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Australia is honouring those who served through a range of activities, and Open Arms is a key part of their enduring legacy.

“The veteran community has a great deal to be proud of – whether you’ve served your country directly in the armed forces, or as the family member of a veteran,” Minister Thistlethwaite said.

“Open Arms embodies the mateship and selflessness of the veteran community. The military-aware and trauma-informed service is here for anyone who has served one day in the ADF, and their immediate family.”

Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling is available 24/7 on 1800 011 046. For more information, visit the Open Arms website.


Media contacts

  • Ben Leeson (Assistant Minister Thistlethwaite’s office): 0404 648 275
  • DVA Media: 

Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling provides 24/7 free confidential crisis support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families on 1800 011 046 or the Open Arms website. Safe Zone Support provides anonymous counselling on 1800 142 072. Defence All-Hours Support Line provides support for ADF personnel on 1800 628 036 or the Defence Health Portal. Defence Member and Family Helpline provides support for Defence families on 1800 624 608