The Vietnam Veterans Association Australia is a volunteer body with its origins in the struggle to have the government accept the effects of chemical exposure (Agent Orange) and post traumatic stress syndrome. In those times (the 1980s), Vietnam Veterans concerns were opposed by the RSL and so the VVAA was formed to take the fight to the government.Today, the RSL and the VVAA has long resolved their differences and many Vietnam Veterans hold leadership positions in what is Australia's senior war veterans organisation. At the local level, the sub-branches are now focused on the welfare of Vietnam Veterans, whether they are members of the VVAA or not. We have a Welfare Officer on our committee, and hold a number of events to raise funds for welfare projects. These projects are generally organised around sport and exercise, social interaction, and family support. The Geelong and District sub-branch organises activities such as yoga, heart health, bushwalking, tennis, badminton and golf.
The Vietnam Veterans Centre
The Geelong Sub-branch office is currently located at 31 Mt Pleasant Road, Belmont (0352433700), due to City of Greater Geelong staff carrying out maintenance work on the Osborne House precinct. The museum in Osborne House is closed until works are completed.
Osborne House has a long military history. It was once Australia's first Naval Officer's Training Centre, a convalescent home for WW1 veterans, and from 1920-22 it was our first submarine base. Its most recent use was the offices of the Corio Shire Council. It has a large reception area and can host sit-down dining for up to 80 people. It has a fully equipped kitchen and two offices.
What we do
The Vietnam Veterans Australia Association is a volunteer body with its origins in the struggle to have the government accept the effects of chemical exposure (Agent Orange) and post-traumatic stress syndrome. In those times (the 1980s), Vietnam Veterans concerns were opposed by the RSL and so the VVAA was formed to take the fight to the government.Today, the RSL and the VVAA has long resolved their differences and many Vietnam Veterans hold leadership positions in what is Australia's senior war veterans organisation. At the local level, the sub-branches are now focused on the welfare of Vietnam Veterans, whether they are members of the VVAA or not. These projects are generally organised around sport and exercise, social interaction, and family support. The Geelong and District sub-branch organises activities such as yoga, heart health, tennis, badminton and golf.
In 1974 a group of young men who had served in South Vietnam met at the Geelong RSL with the aim of forming a Vietnam association. Their intention was to keep alive the camaraderie they had experienced in Vietnam. At that time, however, the R&SL was opposed to the use of the word "veteran" as it felt the term was too "Americanised". After a number of names were considered, the group finally settled on "The Geelong Vietnam Association". A further impetus for the formation of the association was the desire of Geelong veterans to march independently of any other group or unit at ANZAC Day services. This took place for the first time in 1975 when the newly formed association marched under its own banner, made for it by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Geelong RSL. It is believed that the GVA was the first registered association of Vietnam veterans in Australia.From the outset, the GVA was purely a social group and over the next 15 years many activities and functions were held. The money raised from these activities was distributed to various charities, including the Cottage by The Sea, and was also used to send children to the Lords Mayor's Camp at Somers. The association also assisted many of its members who were experiencing hardship. The inaugural president of the GVA was Neil Smith with Graham Pitchford as secretary.In late 1979 in Melbourne the " Vietnam Veterans Action Association" was formed as a result of perceptions that the veterans exposure to toxic chemicals during the conflict was the cause of health problems for they and their children. A name change quickly followed with the group becoming the "Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia" (the word 'Action' apparently being considered too political by some). In the same year, a sub-Branch was formed in Geelong under the presidency of Richard Brady with Alan Bone as secretary. The newly formed group focused on welfare and pension work with Tassie Challenger being the first VVAA Welfare Officer in Geelong. Many Geelong veterans who served in SVN often asked the question "why are there two Vietnam Veteran groups in Geelong" and the question was rarely answered.In late 1987, after the Sydney welcome home parade, the two groups started to liaise with one another and in late 1988 a joint steering committee, with independent chairman, Harry Wright, and secretary, Gus Angus, was formed to examine the amalgamation of the GVA and the VVAA Geelong sub-Branch.A number of meetings were held over the next twelve months and, in late 1990, the two groups amalgamated to become "The Geelong & District Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia "with Harry Wright as interim President until the first AGM at which Graham Brown and Alan Hughes were installed as the incoming President and Secretary respectively.The aim of the G&DVVAA was to provide pension and welfare assistance for the Vietnam Veteran Community in Geelong as well as provide a social environment for the veteran and his family. In 1993 the City of Geelong and the G &DVVAA was chosen to host the National Congress of the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia and Geelong was the first provincial city in Australia to do so.Also in 1993, a sub-committee was formed to establish the Geelong Vietnam Memorial and in October 1995, on the anniversary of the opening of the National Vietnam Memorial in Canberra, the Geelong Memorial and Avenue of Honour at Osborne Park, North Geelong, was officially opened. Subsequently, improvements to the memorial and surrounds, along with the upgrading of the Avenue of Honour continue.In 1995 Geelong Legacy provided the GDVVAA with an office in Murray House, where most of the pension and welfare work was done. The association remained at Murray House until its move to Clancy House at St John of God Hospital in 2000. The GDVVAA was the driving force behind the establishment of the Geelong Veterans Support Centre at SJOG. Under the guidance of the State Branches of the VVAA and the R&SL the Veterans Support Centre eventually evolved to become the Geelong Veterans Welfare Centre and, later, the Geelong Veterans Centre, serving veterans of all conflicts. The Centre evolved to become part of a regional network of 28 veteran's Centres under the auspices of the Regional Veterans Welfare Centre project (a joint VVAA Victoria/RSL Victoria project). In Geelong the centre was the joint responsibility of the GDVVAA and the Geelong RSL. Centre management was directly responsible to co-chairpersons appointed by their respective organisations. The GDVVAA and Geelong RSL Presidents were, in turn, responsible to the VVAA and RSL State Presidents for the maintenance of high ethical standards and good corporate governance of the centre. In 2011, a significant reduction in government funding for administrative and operational support resulted in the closure of some centres and the amalgamation of others. The Geelong Veteran's Centre is now called the Geelong - Surf Coast Regional Veteran's Centre serving members throughout the City of Greater Geelong, the Surf Coast and Golden Plains Shires.In 2010, the association celebrated its 35th anniversary. The continuing strength of the GDVVAA lies in the tireless work of many individuals, their families and their friends. As long as there are veterans who are socially isolated or in need of assistance, the fight must go on. To keep us focussed on the task we need look no further than the association motto: "Honour the Dead but Fight like Hell for the Living.”