Voluntary Aid Detachments were established during World War I by members of the Australian Red Cross and the Order of St John. Members received instruction in first aid and home nursing from the St John Ambulance Association. Initially they worked without pay in hospitals and convalescent homes alongside doctors and nurses. After the war the voluntary service continued. Recruits were drawn from the local area by invitation from a serving member. During the World War II Voluntary Aid Detachment members were given more medical training, but they were not fully qualified nurses. Voluntary Aides worked in convalescent hospitals, on hospital ships and in the blood bank, as well as on the home front.
In New South Wales Voluntary Aid Detachments are now part of the Voluntary Aid Service Corps (VASC). To become a member of the Corps, volunteers must hold a current Senior First Aid Certificate. Members provide free first aid at major sporting and cultural events as well as assistance in times of disaster.
The Australian Red Cross began organising Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) nation-wide as part of Lady Helen Munro Ferguson's appeal "to the women of Australia" at the onset of World War I. They soon came to be largely comprised of women. Their scheme followed the policy of the British War Office, and the British Red Cross Society, of which Australia was developing a branch. A number of women had also enrolled in a Voluntary Aid Detachment in 1914 as part of the formation of the New South Wales branch of the British Red Cross Society. By August 1915, the Australian branch of the British Red Cross reported that Victoria and Tasmania also had Voluntary Aid Detachments. In addition Special Voluntary Aid Detachment Committees had been formed in each State Division, and a Committee of the Central Council had been formed. Recognised by the Military, the Voluntary Aid Detachments were at their peak in World War I and World War II, providing first aid, nursing assistance, comforts, domestic assistance and other supports for returned and wounded soldiers. In between the two World Wars, they continued their care for ex-soldiers and their families, raised funds, and moved into civil hospitals, homes and health associations. In 1928, they became a technical reserve of the Army Medical Corps, administered under the Minister of Defence through a Joint Central Council. After World War II, they extended their civilian service, which included the assistance of new immigrants. In January 1948, direct control of the Voluntary Aid Detachments was returned to the Australian Red Cross and St John Ambulance Society. Yet many Voluntary Aid Detachments folded as time went on, States withdrew from this area, and staff worked in a range of other Australian Red Cross services. In New South Wales, however, the Voluntary Aid Detachments were renamed and revamped as the Voluntary Aid Service Corps in 1967, where they still remain active.
1916 - 1918
Australian Government recognised the Voluntary Aid Detachments as auxiliaries to the Medical Service, and Voluntary Aids began working in military hospitals in Australia
1918 - 1939
After the war the voluntary service continued in hospitals throughout Australia, drawing recruits from local areas by invitation from a serving member
1928 - 1948
Voluntary Aid Detachments became a technical reserve of the Army Medical Corps, administered under the Minister of Defence through a Joint Central Council
1939 - 1940
Due to labour shortages Voluntary Aids once again began working in the military hospital system
Voluntary Aids began receiving payment for their duties
The role of Voluntary Aid Detachments expanded and they are now employed in a wide range of positions, including as clerks, ambulance drivers, seamstresses, storekeepers, radiographers, dental orderlies and laundry staff
Approval granted for Voluntary Aids to serve overseas
During World War II Voluntary Aid Detachment members serve in Cairo, Gaza and Ceylon as well as on hospital ships
200 Voluntary Aids embark for the Middle East.
The Military Board approved the call-up of Voluntary Aids, and the Voluntary Aid Detachment began to be administered as a service within the Army Medical Service
The Australian Army Medical Women's Service established to distinguish between full-time military Voluntary Aids and those attached on a voluntary basis to the aid organisations
Direct control of the Voluntary Aid Detchments was returned to the Australian Red Cross and St John Ambulance Society
Voluntary Aid Detachments were renamed and revamped as the Voluntary Aid Service Corps
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Australian Women's Register