AVCAT transforming lives through education
The Australian Veterans' Children Assistance Trust (AVCAT) is a national charity that manages a range of tertiary education scholarships and bursaries for the children and grandchildren of Australian ex-serving men and women.
AVCAT was established in 2003. Its history started with the former Australian Vietnam War Veterans' Trust (AVWVT), established in 1985. The purpose of AVWVT was to distribute the Australian share of the funds received from the Agent Orange legal settlement in the USA to Vietnam Veterans and their dependants.
The funds were distributed as cash payments to Vietnam Veterans in deserving circumstances. The AVWT operated two funds, one was immediately available to Vietnam veterans, the other smaller fund –10% of the total fund – was set aside for future use, and to provide longer term assistance to veterans. The AVWT particularly aimed to provide for ‘the increased number of widows who can then be expected to seek assistance for themselves and the education and care of their children.’
The aim of AVWVT was to provide financial assistance to children of Vietnam War Veterans who would not, without a scholarship, have the financial means to complete a tertiary education degree.
AVCAT, has continued the legacy of AVWVT by assisting the children and grandchildren of Australian ex-service men and women to a better future through tertiary education. The scholarships are targeted at people who are assessed as being in financial need, show academic potential and are deserving. All scholarships support full-time tertiary study at university, TAFE or registered training organisation.
AVCAT manages the Long Tan Bursaries on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Veterans' Affairs and sponsored scholarships on behalf of a range of ex-service organisations and individual donors.
The Long Tan Bursaries are named after the battle of Long Tan. The battle of Long Tan was one of the fiercest actions seen by Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War. The battle took place in the Long Tan rubber plantation on 18 August 1966. On that day, 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought a pitched battle against over 2,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops.
Vietnam Veterans’ Day is commemorated each year on 18 August, the day was chosen to commemorate D Company, 6RAR who fought in the battle of Long Tan. To acknowledge this date, the opening of AVCAT scholarships occurs on 18 August each year.
The Long Tan Bursary, originally for the children of Vietnam Veterans has now been extended to include the grandchildren of Vietnam Veterans.
AVCAT now administers and manages more scholarships than ever. We assist approximately 240 - 250 young people each year to reach their potential through achieving a range of academic and personal goals.
His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd)
Major General Bill Crews AO (Retd)
Major General Bill Crews AO (Retd) commenced as the Chair of AVCAT in May 2017.
Bill served in the Australian Army for more than 37 years, retiring in 1999 from the position of Director, Defence Intelligence Organisation. He served in Vietnam in 1969.
He worked briefly in private enterprise and then in his professional association, Engineers Australia, before being elected in 2003 as National President of the Returned and Services League of Australia. Bill served in this voluntary role for six years and continues to hold appointments as a volunteer in several not-for-profit organisations. He is currently also the Chair of the Alkath Group, a South Coast based SME servicing Defence and federal and state-based emergency services’.
Bill holds degrees in Civil Engineering and Economics. He was an International Fellow at the US Army War College and has completed the Corporate Directors' Diploma Course at UNE. He is an Honorary Fellow of Engineers Australia and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1996 for his military service.
Mr Gordon Blake
Mr Gordon Blake is the National President of the Australian Veterans and Defence Services Council (AVADSC). He joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1979 and served until 1994. He subsequently spent a number of years in Electronic Engineering appointments before his retirement. Gordon has held a variety of executive positions in ex-service organisations since then. He also works as a volunteer for veterans' welfare in those organisations. He was appointed by the Australian Veterans and Defence Services Council to the AVCAT Board and has been a Board Director since 2012. Gordon is also on AVCAT’s National Selection Committee regarding the assessment of the financial need of applicants for scholarships.
Squadron Leader Eric Easterbrook OAM (Retd)
Eric joined AVCAT in November 2020. He served in the Royal Australian Air Force for 20 years and then as a Defence Public Servant in all three branches of the military for another 22 years. Eric was a farm labourer prior to joining the Air Force and on enlistment became a Technical Apprentice (Armament).
After completing his apprenticeship, he served on several Air Force Bases, and squadrons, including a tour of Vietnam (1970 – 1971).
After returning to Australia Eric gained his commission in Armament Engineering and went on to become OIC of Armament training, OIC Air Force EOD and IED Flight, Senior Engineering Officer No1 Central Ammunition Depot and Senior Armament Officer at RAAF Base Williamtown from where he retired in 1987.
Eric is a Past President of Sydney Legacy and has served on several committees at local Divisional level of Sydney Legacy as well as several committees of Sydney Legacy. He is currently Chairman of Legacy Australia and serves on several committees of Legacy Australia.
Eric is married, has two married sons and two grandchildren.
Mrs Meg Green AM
Mrs Meg Green AM is a Registered Nurse and a Registered Midwife by profession and has recently retired. Meg is mother to two boys and grandmother to six. She is the widow of a Vietnam Veteran and is the Immediate Past National President of Australian War Widows Inc. Meg has been active in assisting the children of veterans achieve pathways to further education through the Veterans’ Children Education Board (NSW) for some years. She was appointed by the Australian War Widows in 2018 to the AVCAT Board and has been an Alternate Board Director of AVCAT since 2013. Meg is a member of the Finance and Risk Committee for AVCAT. Meg is also a member of the Remembrance Day Council.
Lieutenant Colonel Ian Henderson (Retd)
Lieutenant Colonel Ian Henderson (Retd) is the Board Director for the Vietnam Veterans’ Association of Australia (VVAA). Ian was an Army National Serviceman in 1955 before joining the Regular Army in 1956. He was commissioned in December 1956 and served in a range of appointments on land and sea. He served in Vietnam in 1971 and 1972. He transferred to the Army Reserve in 1979 until mandatory retirement in 1986. He has managed construction companies and held senior executive positions in commerce. He was an RSL NSW State Councillor from 2004 to 2016. He was appointed an AVCAT Alternate Board Director for RSL Australia from 2005 – 2017 and more recently for VVAA. In 2020 he become the Board Director nominated by VVAA and AVCAT’s Deputy Chair. He is a member of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee. Ian has been raising Guide Dog pups since 2002.
Mr William (Bill) Roberts OAM
Mr Bill Roberts OAM is a Vietnam veteran. He served in the Australian Army from 1963 to 1972, Bill served in Malaya and Borneo from 1965 to 1967. He is the National President of the Vietnam Veterans’ Federation of Australia, and the Senior Vice President of the Vietnam Veterans’ Peacekeepers' and Peacemakers' Association of Australia (NSW Branch). Bill was a Board Director of Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Veterans’ Association (TPI) New South Wales from 1999 to 2020. He was nominated by the Vietnam Veterans’ Peacekeepers' and Peacemakers' Association of Australia and has been a Board Director of AVCAT since 2005. Bill is a committee member of AVCAT’s National Selection Committee.
Dr Robert (Rob) Webster OAM FCPA FAPI FRICS
Rob was in the Australian Army and served in Vietnam from February 1970 to February 1971. He is the State President of the Returned & Services League of Australia (Victorian Branch) Inc, being awarded Life Membership with Gold Badge in 2002. Rob is Chairman of the Victorian Veterans’ Children’s Education Board. He is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and holds a Doctor of Business Administration degree.
He was appointed by RSL National and has been an AVCAT Board Director since May 2017. Rob received a Medal in the Order of Australia in 2017.
Alternate Board Directors
Mr Rick Cranna OAM
Mr Richard (Rick) Cranna is the Alternate Director for Mr Eric Easterbrook, Legacy Australia and in November 2021 commenced his AVCAT appointment.
Rick is the immediate past Chairman of Legacy Australia and served in the Australian Army from 1968 to 1970. He was posted to the 12 Field Regiment Royal Australian Artillery 102 Field Battery, serving in South Vietnam 1968-1969.
Rick attained his qualifications as Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA) in 1968. He was also a Fellow Certified Practicing Accountant (FCPA) from 2001 until his retirement in 2007.
Rick was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours in 2018 for his service to war widows and their families. He has recently been awarded the 2018 Old Sydneian of the Year Award from his old school, Sydney Grammar School.
Since 2010, Rick has been involved with the Học Mãi, the Australia Vietnam Medical Foundation, a non-profit foundation of the University of Sydney established to improve medical education in Vietnam and has recently been appointed to their Foundation Board.
When he is not volunteering, Rick enjoys sailing, fishing and golf. He lives in NSW with his wife Jenny, has two children and six grandchildren.
Mrs Jenny Gregory
Mrs Jenny Gregory is the Alternate Board Director for Mrs Meg Green, Australian War Widows Australia. Jenny has been a Registered Nurse by profession and has tertiary qualifications in Applied Science (Nursing) and Health Services Management. She is the widow of a Vietnam Veteran and is the State President of Australian War Widows Queensland. Jenny is an advocate of further education due to her past role of developing and providing accredited dementia training programs for carers of people with dementia. Jenny joined the AVCAT Board in October 2018.
Mr Peter Jones
Mr Peter Jones is the Alternate Board Director for Mr Gordon Blake AVADSC. Peter worked in commerce and economics for 7 years before serving in the Navy from 1965 to 1971. He then worked for the Navy for another 10 years in a civilian capacity. Peter moved to Brisbane and worked in manufacturing and workplace health & safety for 25 years and has just retired from managing a Licensed Club for the last 10 years. Peter is involved in Ex-Service activities since the Welcome Home March in early 1990's. He is state President of Vietnam Logistic Support Veterans Association and the State Chair and National Secretary of Australian Veterans and Defence Services Council.
Mr Peter Kaineder
Mr Peter Kaineder is the Alternate Board Director for Mr Bill Roberts OAM from the Vietnam Veterans' Peacekeepers' and Peacemakers' Association of Australia. A Vietnam Veteran and a teacher by profession, Mr Kaineder is retired from his position as Senior Science Master of a NSW Selective School. Peter has been an Alternate Board Director since 2006. Mr Kaineder has been on AVCAT’s National Selection Committee assessing scholarship applications since 2006.
Mr Patrick W Medway AM
Mr Patrick W Medway AM is the Alternate Director for Dr Rob Webster, RSL National. Patrick is the immediate past President of the Teachers RSL Sub-Branch and has served in this capacity since 2010 having previously served in various positions and committees since joining the RSL in 1972. He was trained as a commando in the 1st Commando Company in Sydney in 1958-59 and later joined the NSW Police Force. He was seconded to the Australian Federal Police in 1964 and served in the United Nations Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP) mission in 1964 and 1965 as an investigator for the UN mission. After an early police career, he was appointed Community Relations Manager for the NSW Department of Education in 1970 and served with the Department until his retirement in 1993. He has served on many government and inter-government committees and has a strong interest in wildlife conservation and environmental matters. He has introduced a number of youth awards and university scholarships for young people and is currently the CEO/National Secretary of the Australian Wildlife Society. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from UTS and a Master of Educational Administration from UNSW. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 for his services to environmental education and the Society. Patrick joined the AVCAT Board in November 2018.
Former Board Directors
Mr David Norton FCA
Mr David Norton holds a Masters Degree in Engineering Science from Oxford University, England. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants (England and Wales). Mr Norton brought to AVCAT his professional experience in Investment Banking with a specialisation in financial research. He experienced active service in the early period of the Malayan Emergency. Mr Norton was an Alternate Board Director from 2011to 2021 and was the Chair of the Finance Audit and Risk Committee.
Lieutenant Colonel Philip Badcock OAM (Retd)
Phil was a Vietnam veteran. He served in the Australian Army from 1967 to 1992. After leaving the Army, Phil became the Director of Logistics for the NSW Department of Corrective Services. He was nominated by Legacy Australia to the AVCAT Board and was a Board Director from 2005 to 2020.
Mr Ken H Foster OAM
Ken was the Deputy Chair of AVCAT. A veteran of Malaya and Vietnam, Ken served in the Australian Army from 1962 to 1979. He was nominated by the Vietnam Veterans’ Association of Australia and was a Board Director of AVCAT from 2001 to 2020.
Mr Norm M Robertson
Norm was a Vietnam Veteran. He was nominated to the AVCAT Board by the Vietnam Veterans’ Federation of Australia. He was a committee member of the Education Committee, later known as the National Selection Committee. Norm served on the AVCAT Board from 1989 to 2017.
Vice Admiral Russ E Shalders AO CSC RAN (Retd)
Russ was appointed by the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs in 2009 as Chair of the AVCAT Board. He was Chair of the Board from 2010-2017. Russ was promoted to Vice Admiral and appointed as Vice Chief of the Defence Force in July 2002. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours list of 2003. Russ was Chief of Navy from July 2005 for a three-year term.
Len Russell, CEO
Len Russell joins AVCAT as CEO having an extensive mixture of experience from both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors.
Len began his corporate career in sales and marketing roles within the heavy earthmoving and automotive equipment industry sectors. He also spent over a decade working within the telecommunications sector with a focus on international telecoms and internet service providers. He also spent time as a product director with a legal publisher just prior to turning his skills towards the not-for-profit sector.
He brings a wealth of experience from the ‘for-purpose’ sector having worked in senior fundraising management positions across multiple social welfare and health related charities. Len is a member of the Australian Institute of Community Directors and is a member of the Fundraising Institute of Australia and spent 10 years on its NSW State Committee. In his spare time Len volunteers time as a board director of a disability organisation which provides supported living and day program activities in western Sydney.
Prior to joining AVCAT Len was the inaugural Chief Executive Officer of ADHD Australia and led the organisation across several important and transformational areas in governance, marketing, fundraising, information technology and the launch of a new website.
Len has a Bachelor of Business with a major in marketing, a Master of Legal Studies majoring in IT Law, a post-graduate Certificate in Management as well as being a Certified Fundraising Executive with CFRE International.
Chris Wicks, Finance Manager
Chris commenced with AVCAT in March 2017. He is a fellow of CPA Australia and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, UK. Chris has held senior financial positions for many years in the commercial sector and since 2011 has been working with not-for-profit organisations focusing on disadvantaged families and early childhood education.
Robyn Richardson, Scholarships Manager
Robyn joined AVCAT in May 2020. She has previously worked as a national program manager, teacher, trainer and tutor in the not for profit and education sectors.
Her previous roles included introducing evidence based innovation and change in program development, leading educational resource development teams and establishing strategic alliances and partnerships across the education and health sectors. Robyn is a passionate educator, keen to support young people to reach their full potential through educational opportunities.
Tania Hayes, Project Manager
Tania is an experienced scholarship and education manager. Her previous roles include scholarships manager and program administrator.
Jessica Nguyen, Scholarships Administration Officer
Jessica joined AVCAT in March 2021. She holds a Master of Business Administration (major in strategic management) from University of Technology Sydney and Bachelor in TESOL. She worked in sales and marketing roles in the hospitality and FMCG industry for over ten years before moving to the university and not-for-profit sectors.
Raji Fernando, Contractor
Raji Fernando has been with AVCAT since late 2017. Raji supports the Finance Manager and also is involved in the IT development at AVCAT.