In January 2021, the Australian Veterinary Association celebrates its Centenary. As the voice of Australia’s veterinarians, the AVA is reflecting on the achievements of the past 100 years and looking forward to the future of the profession.
The AVA was formed on 12 January 1921 at a meeting in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Melbourne. “It is hoped that the AVA will come into being…[to] play a great part in the progress of veterinary science in this country, and in the advancement of our profession”, noted Honorary Organising Secretary Mr Max Henry at the time.
Having grown from 80 original members in 1921, the AVA now represents over 9,000 members. Throughout its history, the AVA has continually evolved to meet the needs of its members, working to empower the veterinary profession to thrive by providing a strong and uniting voice, underpinned by a focus on support, education and community.
Over the last 100 years, the AVA has made a significant impact in areas such as antimicrobial resistance and prescribing guidelines, the welfare of racehorses over their entire lifetime, and the care of livestock and wildlife affected by environmental disasters. The AVA provides essential leadership on animal welfare issues, contributes to government policy development, lobbies for improvements in legislation, and develops quality assurance programs that relate to standards of care for patients in veterinary hospitals.
“From small beginnings, something strong has grown. Veterinarians provide unique and vital services that are essential to our community. We can all feel proud of veterinarians’ contributions to animal health and welfare of pets, farm animals and wildlife in Australia over the last 100 years - at a local, national and international level”, said the AVA’s National President, Dr Warwick Vale.
Veterinarian Mary Barton, an Emeritus Professor in microbiology and public health at the University of South Australia has been an active member of the AVA since 1965. At a time when there was a scarcity of female representation in the veterinary profession, Professor Barton was the AVA’s second female President from 1988 to 1989, and she celebrates the changing demographics of the veterinary profession in recent decades.
“It’s been wonderful to see an increase in the number of female veterinarians in the profession. Over the years, I’ve also noticed a shift from large animal to small animal practice, with increased part-time work. Not everyone has to work in a clinical practice to be a ‘real’ vet. I think it is important to remember the key roles that veterinarians have played in the economic security of Australia over the last 100 years, such as in the area of disease control eradicating Bovine Tuberculosis and Brucellosis, and in the control of exotic disease incursions from the earliest days”, said Professor Barton.
“The role of veterinarians has evolved as the community has changed over time, with developments in animal welfare, the importance of public health as more zoonoses have been recognised, and the changing role of pets in society with the community having higher expectations of the outcomes of veterinary treatment”.
The veterinary profession has diversified over the last century, seeing increasing specialisation and technological developments such as the use of veterinary telemedicine, but there remains a common bond which links veterinarians in all fields of the profession - a focus on keeping a strong professional identity, which is actively supported by the AVA.
There’s also excitement at what lies ahead in the veterinary profession. Dr Zachary Lederhose graduated as a veterinarian from Charles Sturt University in 2016 and owns a small animal veterinary practice in Goulburn in regional New South Wales.
“I became a vet because of my curiosity, I wanted to understand medicine, surgery, and everything in-between. Once I dipped my toe into the industry, I realised it was all about people, which makes me love it even more! I love helping people to have the best relationship they can with their pet, and as a vet, I feel fortunate to be such a critical part of so many people's families”, said Dr Lederhose.
“The past 100 years of the AVA covers a huge change in the role of veterinarians in society. In the time that pets have gone from the backyard to the bedroom, vets have become a more critical part of many people's lives. As a younger member of the AVA, as we reflect on how we got here, I'm excited to see where the next 100 years takes us!”.
Join us on the AVA’s 100 Years and Beyond journey.