A university study that will influence the way governments treat military people and their families for generations to come is in danger of failing to get off the ground.
Ten thousand veterans of the Vietnam war have been asked to participate, but most have ignored the request.
Another 10,000 national service people who didn’t leave Australia have largely failed to respond.
The study, the first of its kind in the world, needs at least 3000 people from each group to participate. On top of that it needs each group’s children to volunteer. Only the children of the Viet nam veterans have so far shown a willingness to do so.
Three returned soldiers have teamed up to make a plea to ex-service men and women to participate in the Inter Generational Health Effects of Service in the Military, also known as Family Health Study.
Two of the men are on the consultative forum advising the study.
Geoff Parker, a conscripted soldier of the 5th battalion, was in Vietnam for 12 months in 1969, and Dr Roderick Bain did three tours of duty.
Dr Bain said it was understandable and typical of veterans not to want to have anything much to do with the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he begged people to put those feelings aside.
The study applies to veterans who served overseas during the 1960s and ’70s as well as those in the military who remained in Australia.
Dr Bain said both groups were needed to prove that a soldier’s overseas service could contribute to that soldier’s family difficulties – be they his own, his wife’s, or his children’s or grandchildren’s.
“Much time and effort has been spent designing this study and to have it fail through lack of numbers will be a tragedy that reverberates throughout the whole country for many generations to come,’’ he said.
The study is being done by a university, not the department. Veterans Affairs sent out letters in May but the consultative forum was not formed until September.
“There are 10 of us on the forum determined to gain a useful result for those sons and daughters of military people, but we can do it only with the support of all those soldiers requested to be part of the study,’’ Dr Bain said.
“This invitation does not mean only those with some lasting difficulties. We need everyone to take part.’’
Geoff Parker said the study needed large numbers of participants to establish valid, reliable information on a range of conditions. “Your registration to participate is vital to understanding the intergenerational health affects of military service,’’ he said.
Children of Vietnam Veterans Study Inc president, David Mathieson, said the way forward was to work with the various research groups and the department to achieve the best outcome possible.
“To refuse, if requested, to even participate in the study is un worthy of any military person,’’ he said.
“Many have been through DVA studies and have felt uncomfortable about the outcomes. Please put those aside.
“This study is not just about us but the families of all future military families.’’ Details on 1800-502-302 or visit www.dva.gov.au/vvfs