The history of Open Arms

Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling (formerly VVCS) is Australia’s leading provider of high-quality mental health assessment and clinical counselling services for Australian veterans and their families.

We are focused on meeting client needs through a combination of proven clinical practices and new and emerging evidence-based approaches.

The Vietnam War was a difficult chapter in Australia's history. For those who served, the experience forged strong bonds and a commitment to look out for each other. This mateship led Vietnam veterans to lobby for a specialised counselling and support service - the Vietnam Veterans' Counselling Service (VVCS).

In 1982, the first VVCS office opened in Adelaide. Offices opened later that year in Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. Canberra and Darwin offices opened the following year.

The service began as a peer-driven service, in which a roster of Vietnam veterans and their partners provided support. Veterans struggling with their return to civilian life were able to reach out to others with similar experiences to discuss their feelings and build a community.

In 2007, access to VVCS was extended to veterans of all conflicts, their families, and other members of the ADF and ex-service community. The service was renamed VVCS - Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service to reflect this expanded eligibility. This grew further in the decade that followed and, in 2018, VVCS became Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling.

From humble beginnings, the service has grown into a world leader in mental health support programs and services to veterans and current serving personnel of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). It has now provided millions of free mental health counselling sessions and support to hundreds of thousands of serving and ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force as well as their families.

Open Arms support continues to be testament to the commitment of the Vietnam veterans who advocated for the establishment of a service. It now boasts 35 outlets in every state and territory around Australia, and a network of more than 1300 mental health professionals.

In 2021, more veterans and their families sought support from Open Arms than any time in its 40 year history. As demand has increased, the service has evolved to offer 24/7 free confidential crisis support, Peer Support, Care Coordination, Crisis Accommodation Support, Psycho-education Workshops, Group Treatment Programs, and online tools through an accessible website and mobile apps.

Now, veterans and their families can be confident that specialised support is available for them, whenever they may need it.

Open arms - A symbol for veterans

Our name reflects the action of soldiers standing in a field with 'open arms' signalling for helicopters to land as well as a family welcoming home serving members after deployment.

Call us

To learn more about Open Arms' free, confidential 24-hour counselling service, including your eligibility, call 1800 011 046.

  • About us

    Australia’s leading provider of high quality mental health assessment and clinical counselling services for Australian veterans and their families.

  • VVCS to Open Arms

     In 2018 Vietnam Veterans’ Counselling Service (VVCS) became Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling.