Launch of refreshed Open Arms—Veterans & Families Counselling service
In October 2018 a significant legacy of our Vietnam veterans was symbolically passed on to our current veterans and their families when we relaunched the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service as Open Arms—Veterans & Families Counselling. The rebrand, driven by the Minister’s independent National Advisory Committee and consultation conducted nationally, was more than just a name change—it reflects a move to a more holistic service offering.
The relaunch was about more than just introducing a more recognisable brand to promote mental health and wellbeing services—it was also a recognition that any ADF member with minimum one day of full-time service and their family can now access an expanded range of mental health services.
The Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, the Hon Darren Chester MP, was joined at the launch by Dr David Cockram, a Vietnam veteran, who passed the legacy to the Ambassador for Open Arms, Corporal Mark Donaldson VC (Ret’d).
Open Arms is a very powerful symbol of support, safety, and security. As highlighted by Dr Cockram at the relaunch, Vietnam veterans spent long periods in the jungle during the war. Their lifeline was the Huey helicopter, which they would call in to take them to safety at the end of an operation, for a medical evacuation or to provide critical supplies. Often, to let the pilot know where to land, one soldier had to stand in a field with raised open arms, completely vulnerable. The new logo is a symbol of the courage it sometimes takes to seek help, while also representing the approach of welcoming those who need support with open arms.
Along with free and confidential face-to-face counselling for individuals, couples and families, the service now offers after-hours telephone counselling, mental health training programs and peer support networks, self-help resources, crisis accommodation support, relationship retreats, group treatment programs, suicide prevention courses, and a new website, www.OpenArms.gov.au.
The counselling service that was originally founded as the Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service has been providing essential face-to-face counselling services and support to Australian veterans and their families since 1982 and will continue into the future as Open Arms.