Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of History & Politics - Faculty of Arts


Psychiatric casualties of war and mental illnesses in veterans have been officially recorded since the First World War. These psychological problems have affected the Australian military and devastated some veterans' lives. This thesis examines the psychological effects of the Second World War and the Indonesian Confrontation on Australian veterans and their families. Oral history testimonies reveal that the social consequences of war are remarkably similar for some ex-service personnel, despite the conflicts they served in. The symptoms of mental illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, social isolation, addiction and nightmares, not only severely debilitate some mentally ill veterans' home, working and social lives, they also have a profound and lasting effect on these veterans' families.

The case studies' experiences are set within a historical and cultural context. Archival and clinical material is used to trace the extent of psychological problems in service personnel, the perceived causes of these problems, and the policies and treatment methods used by mental illness experts and the Australian governments. Much of this history has been dominated by the predisposition doctrine: mental illnesses were attributed to the individual, rather than the war experience. This doctrine, along with the psychological effects of war, continues to leave its legacy on contemporary veterans and their families.

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