100 years of the Australian Veterinary Association

12 Jan 2021

The voice of Australia’s veterinary profession, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), celebrates its Centenary in 2021.

“From small beginnings, something strong has grown - we can be proud of what the AVA has achieved over the last 100 years, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate the achievements of veterinarians and the profession. The AVA is committed to empowering the veterinary profession to thrive by providing a strong and united voice, underpinned by a focus on support, education and community”, said Dr Warwick Vale, AVA President.

The inaugural meeting responsible for the formation of the AVA was held at the University of Melbourne on 12 January 1921. Since then 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.

“The veterinary profession and the leadership delivered by the AVA over the last 100 years in animal welfare disease prevention and veterinary services has been a key part of the success of Australia. Veterinarians provide unique and vital services that are essential to our community. Australians can feel proud of our veterinarians in the contribution they have made to animal health and welfare of pets, farm animals and wildlife over the last 100 years - at a local, national and international level”, said Dr Vale.

“The AVA advocates in a way that ensures that veterinarians’ professional knowledge, scientific expertise, and our empathy and compassion for animals is at the forefront and is making a difference. The AVA also advocates for better outcomes for veterinarians and the animals they care for, as the ongoing needs of veterinarians is our highest priority”.

Having been an active member of the AVA since 1965, at a time when there was a scarcity of female representation in the veterinary profession, veterinarian Mary Barton, an Emeritus Professor in microbiology and public health at the University of South Australia who was the AVA’s second female President from 1988 to 1989, 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”.

Recognising the changing demographics and workplace of the profession, the AVA has introduced programs such as the Return to Work online learning resource for vets returning to the workforce, and the Employer of Choice program developing leading veterinary workplaces that maximise the full potential of their workforce. The AVA also provides a range of veterinary mental health and wellness services including the new graduate mentoring program and educational mental health and wellbeing resources.

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 together - a focus on keeping a strong professional identity which is supported by the AVA.

“First and foremost veterinarians have a commitment to animals. Science is also critical, but I think that one of the most central aspects of our role as vets is the trust that is inherent in our role. Pet and livestock owners trust us every day, and that will always be an integral part of how we practice our profession”, said Dr Zachary Lederhose, who 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!”.

The AVA’s Centenary program brings together a collective brand that acknowledges our history and longevity whilst celebrating this fantastic milestone. A range of activities are planned for the AVA’s Centenary year to highlight the significant contributions of veterinarians to Australia, along with exploring what to expect in the field of veterinary science in the years ahead.

Join us on the AVA’s 100 Years and Beyond journey.

For further information and requests for interviews contact the AVA media office on 0439 628 898 or media@ava.com.au.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is the only national association representing veterinarians in Australia. Founded in 1921, the AVA today represents 9000 members working in all areas of animal science, health, and welfare.