New National Manager appointed to Open Arms

Dr Grant Pegg the new National Manager, Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling discusses the future of the organisation in this, its 40th year.

I am now a few months into the role of National Manager at Open Arms. As with any new job, particularly such a rewarding and purposeful one, each day is a learning experience. With Open Arms celebrating its 40th anniversary supporting the veteran community in 2022, it is also a time to honour the history and the people that have made it what it is today.

The legacy and insights of the Vietnam veterans who founded the service are at the forefront of my mind. I strongly believe that to know where we’re going, we have to know and respect where we came from.I am confident this rich history will continue to inform the evolution of Open Arms to ensure we meet the needs of veterans and their families into the future.

I’m a registered medical practitioner with previous experience working as a GP and in mental health services in Queensland. I’ve also held various public health roles in Canberra. Most recently, I worked for the Therapeutic Goods Administration (part of the Department of Health) where I was responsible for the pre-market approval of prescription medicines including COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

Returning to my clinical passion for mental health 

I’m closely connected with the Australian Defence Force, with a number of family members, including my brother, currently serving. Open Arms presents an opportunity for me to return to my clinical passion for mental health while connecting to the clear purpose of supporting veterans at a pivotal time for the service.

The Vietnam Veterans’ Counselling Service was formed in 1982 from a deep sense of mateship and a strong commitment to peer support. From my first introduction to the service, it is clear that those values have formed a strong foundation on which the service operates today.

Expanded service offering to meet the needs of Veterans and their families

The expansion of our services across Australia over the years highlights the increasing demand and clear need for a specialised, military-aware counselling service. It also reinforces our ability to adapt to meet the evolving needs of veterans.

One thing that has particularly struck me in these first months is the scope of support offered by the service. From 24/7 counselling, to group programs, peer support, and digital resources. The Peer program, for example, is a relatively new program that echoes the work of those who founded the service. It involves people with lived experience of service and mental health support playing an active role in helping others, clearly reflecting foundational principles.

Ensuring a good operational footing for the next 40 years

After several years of significant expansion and growth, one of our main tasks in 2022 is to ensure we are on a good operational footing for the next 40 years. This will include looking to the future to ensure we have the fundamentals right to continue to grow and provide our important services. It will also include learning from and collaborating with similar services domestically and internationally.

Open Arms, like other services, has had to rapidly adapt to the prevailing COVID-19 environment including pivoting to provide telehealth services. Australia’s mental health system is experiencing unprecedented demand across the board, and Open Arms is not immune to these pressures. I’m keen to ensure that the lessons we have learned are incorporated into service improvement as we transition back to face-to-face service delivery.

Open Arms understands the unique issues that veterans may face, and the way ADF life has changed since our service was founded. Open Arms can help veterans and eligible family members work through mental health and wellbeing issues at any time.

Like anything in life, small problems left unchecked can grow into big problems. Reaching out and getting support early can make the world of difference. You’re not alone and we’re here to support you.

Help is available by calling 1800 011 046, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.0