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Guide Dog Tales.

The latest news from Guide Dogs Victoria

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Snoopy, a black labrador puppy

Autumn 2023

The latest news from Guide Dogs Victoria

Welcome to the autumn edition of Guide Dog Tales.

The Guide Dogs Victoria Board is pleased to announce that Nicky Long has been appointed as our incoming Chief Executive Officer. Nicky will join Guide Dogs Victoria in mid-April.

Nicky stood out as a truly exceptional business leader with an impressive track record in the disability and non-profit
sectors. She brings both the experience and drive to lead Guide Dogs Victoria into the future, combined with a deep passion and commitment to empower people living with a disability.

Over the years, Nicky has built deep community links in Victoria. She volunteers as a mentor for women through Mentor Walks and St Kilda’s AFLW player program and is also a volunteer Director for the Priceline Sisterhood Foundation and St Kilda Football Club Foundation.

Headshot of Nicky Long.

The Guide Dogs Victoria Board would like to extend a huge thanks to our Interim CEO, Iain Edwards, for his passion and stewardship of Guide Dogs Victoria over this period. Iain’s secondment into the CEO role was due to end in December 2022, so we appreciate his ongoing commitment to Guide Dogs Victoria and willingness to extend this through to Nicky’s commencement. We equally thank Iain’s employer, Peninsula Health, for allowing Iain to take a leave of absence which enabled him to commit full-time to Guide Dogs Victoria over this extended period.

Iain has decided not to nominate for reappointment to the Guide Dogs Victoria Board once Nicky joins as CEO and will instead take a break from formal duties. We look forward to welcoming Iain back into the organisation in some capacity in the future.

Kind regards,
David Cochrane
Dr David A Cochrane
Board Chair

From the Nursery

We are so excited to share with you our newest members of the Guide Dogs Victoria family.

The G litter were born to mum Edina and dad Wade on 11 December 2022. There were six adorable pups born in the litter; one yellow male, two black males, two yellow females, and one black female. Please welcome Gizmo, Goldie, Gigi, Glitz, Gatsby, and Gnocchi!

These little pups have some big milestones ahead as they begin their two-year Guide Dog training journey. But for now, they are enjoying their time together at the Cute HQ. Soon they will be placed with Volunteer Puppy Raisers, who will care for them in a loving home environment for the next 12 months while they receive the necessary training.

Raising and training a puppy is an amazing experience that is incredibly rewarding for the whole family. Find out more about Puppy Raising.

A black newborn puppy lying at its mother's feet

We want to hear from you

Without you we could not deliver vital services to people who need them most.

To better understand your preferences, we would really appreciate it if you could take the time to fill out a short survey. Click here to complete the survey online.

Accessibility/Client

Thirty years ago, Nurse Leanne Cameron was in a car accident which left her with an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) and significant vision loss.

At the time, Leanne was living in a regional area with limited support services.

“I was scared to leave the home,” Leanne recalls.

Orientation and Mobility staff at Guide Dogs travelled to Leanne two to three days per week, to train her on how to use a white cane. This helped to put her back on the path to independence and restore her confidence.

Since then, Leanne has had a strong connection to Guide Dogs. In 2015, Leanne generously volunteered for Guide Dogs, where she assisted Clients by ensuring resources were available in simplified text and large print. She has also decided to leave a gift to Guide Dogs in her Will to ensure support is there for the next person who needs it.

Leanne is also a keen inventor and is taking her own experiences with low vision to further help the community. Using a laundry basket, a sliding door roller track and an aluminium bracket, Leanne has designed and constructed an innovative solution that enables her to carry rubbish, groceries and laundry up and down her back steps – which she has aptly named the ‘Stairs Carry Assist’. The invention allows Leanne to stay in her own home, as she didn’t want to find a new place to live just because of a few steps. Leanne now shares her invention with others in similar positions to her. “This has helped me and if someone else can benefit from it, well, that is great. If I can get this to help just one other person, that’s my mission solved,” says Leanne.

“How lucky am I?” Leanne finishes. “I am still able to walk, I am still able to think, and I can potentially help others. Maybe that was meant to be my mission all along. I was meant to be doing what I am doing now.”

Thanks to our incredible supporters, our Clients like Leanne can maintain their independence, explore new opportunities and achieve their goals.

“Guide Dogs is just a wonderful organisation that so many people benefit from, right from very young children, through to helping older people to build confidence with their mobility.”

Guide Dogs is just a wonderful organisation that so many people benefit from, right from very young children, through to helping older people to build confidence with their mobility.

Leanne Cameron Guide Dogs Client
Quote by Leanne Cameron

Name: Rafa
Role: Guide Dogs Ambassador Dog
Birthday: 14 February 2017
Mum: Zasha
Dad: Zannis
Siblings: Five

Hi, I’m Rafa, and I have a very important job as an Ambassador Dog for Guide Dogs. A typical day for me always starts with greeting my sister Zolde. She is also an Ambassador Dog so sometimes we get to go to events together. I can be a very energetic boy but when my Ambassador Dog coat goes on, I know it’s time to work.

Recently I visited a local high school (pictured below), it was so much fun! My role at big events is to work the room, greet donors, Clients and the general public, posing for photos and getting some pats while they hear about the important work that my other colleagues do in their roles as Guide Dogs and Therapy Dogs.

I love representing Guide Dogs and raising awareness about the amazing work we do to empower people with low vision or blindness.

Ambassador Dog Rafa, a yellow Labrador, smiling at the camera

Community

Towards the end of 2022, we were thrilled to be the recipient of a community project run by Brendon Guo and Tyler Chuang, two students at Caulfield Grammar School. Brendon and Tyler chose Guide Dogs Victoria as they felt connected to our purpose, and they set about to raise money through a casual dress day at school. Close to $400 was raised and to say thank you, we visited the school with Ambassador Dog Rafa and spoke to the students and staff about the work we do and what is involved in breeding, raising and training our wonderful Guide Dogs. Pictured are Fiona Macmillan (middle), Corporate and Community Fundraising Manager standing with Ambassador Dog Rafa and Caulfield Grammar Students Tyler and Brendon.

Thank you again Brendon and Tyler, we really appreciate your support!

To find out more about our Community Fundraising Program, please contact Fiona Macmillan, Corporate and Community Fundraising Manger on 0447 657 215.

Two students stand next to a Guide Dogs staff member and Ambassador Dog Rafa

Eye Tips

Computer vision syndrome (CVS), also referred to as digital eyestrain, is defined as “a complex of eye and vision problems related to near work experienced during computer, tablet, e-reader, or cell phone use.” People who spend two or more continuous hours at a computer or using a digital screen device every day are more at risk of developing CVS.

Viewing a computer or digital screen is different from viewing a printed page.  Typically, the text on a screen is not as sharply defined and can also be affected by reduced contrast, glare and reflections In addition, viewing distances and the physical setup may be different to other reading and writing tasks, creating greater demand on the eye focusing and movement systems.

The problem may be worse for those who already require a visual correction such as spectacles or contact lenses. A prescription may be correct for general use, but sustained time in front of the computer may require a more specialised script for this task. Trying to physically compensate for an incorrect or under-corrected prescription can result in posture problems, giving rise to extraocular symptoms such as muscle spasms or pain in the neck, shoulders or back.

Other than optical prescriptions, other common causes of CVS include poor lighting, glare on the digital screen, poor seating posture, and improper viewing distances.

A diagram showing correct desk set up

What can we do? Evidence-based treatments and actions:

Spectacles

Spectacles may be adjusted or prescribed for the unique demands of digital screen work. In select cases, vision therapy (exercises) may also improve eye coordination and focus. These treatments are unique to each individual and tailored on a case-by-case basis by an optometrist.

General changes

Apart from glasses, changes in screen display characteristics (such as lighting, glare and display quality) as well as ergonomic positioning and treatment of ocular surface dysfunction (dry eye drops) can all potentially improve symptoms of CVS.

Location of computer screen 15-20 degrees below eye level.

40-75cm distance from eyes.

Reference materials Best located above the keyboard and below the monitor.

If not possible, a document holder can be used beside the monitor. Ideally, the head should not need to be repositioned to see the document.

Lighting Position computer screen to avoid glare, especially from overhead lighting or windows.
Seating position Chair height should be adjusted so feet are flat on the floor.

Wrists shouldn’t rest on the keyboard when typing.

Rest breaks 20/20/20 rule: for every 20 minutes of computer viewing, look into the distance (at least 20 feet) for 20 seconds to allow the eyes to refocus.

After extended use (every 2 hours) rest for 15 minutes.

Blinking Blink frequency reduces when on screens and hence conscious effort to blink helps keep the front surface of the eye moist.
Ocular lubricants To maintain moist ocular surface and aid in dry eye caused by reduced blink frequency at screens. Please see your optometrist for recommendations.

Computer Vision Syndrome is very common given current work and lifestyles.

If you are finding that your symptoms match up with those of CVS, the best option is to see your optometrist for advice on the best prescription as well as managing eye coordination, the ocular surface and ergonomic considerations specific to your particular needs.

Zara’s latest adventure

Zara talked about her many talents, including her long list of sporting and creative endeavours.

Recently Zara and her family took a trip to Portugal where Zara represented the Australian Women’s team at the Goalball World Championships. The Aussie Bells won two of their seven matches and came in eleventh place in the tournament. Great work team!

Zara loved being surrounded by other athletes just like her and cannot wait to sharpen her skills even more in this game she loves, that was created for people with low vision or blindness. Thank you to our incredible donors who give hope to children just like Zara, so that they too can take part in activities, build independence, and experience all that life has to offer.

Client Zara in her yellow Australia jersey at the Goalball championships

Supporter Spotlight

Douglas McDade was a man who enjoyed life and loved helping others in need. He loved putting a smile on someone’s face and was a very generous and kind man. Douglas was a proud Otus Fellowship member and we are humbled that he left a gift in his Will to Guide Dogs.

Leaving a gift in your Will as Douglas did, helps us continue supporting our Clients to live the life of their choosing. Douglas’ legacy now lives on in Guide Dog puppy Narla, who was named by Douglas’ family and friends. Little Narla, pictured below with Douglas’ close friends Rob and Carol, is already putting smiles on faces just like he did.

Douglas McDade smiling

We thank Douglas and others like him for their generosity and ensuring people with low vision or blindness can live a life without limits.

If you would like to know more about including a gift in your Will to Guide Dogs please contact Jaime Nyberg on 9372 4173.

Rob and Carol with black labrador puppy Narla

Guide Dogs was thrilled to welcome some of our valued supporters at a recent morning tea. Client Jordina Howell shared her personal journey with Guide Dog Vadrik, fondly referred to as ‘Vadrik the Viking’ because he is bold and brave! Jordina has partnered with a few Guide Dogs throughout her life and everyone enjoyed learning about their unique personalities and different ways of working. They have all made such a difference in the quality of her life, giving her freedom and independence.

A Guide Dogs team member speaking to a seated audience at an event

We also heard from Prudence Betros, mum to Henry, a Client of Guide Dogs. Prudence shared their family’s journey with Guide Dogs’ support; how Henry has received many support services from Guide Dogs including Orientation and Mobility, Occupational Therapy, and how much he enjoys attending Children’s Camps. Prudence explained how Henry uses a cane as his primary mobility aid and how appreciative they are for the range of services and support they receive from Guide Dogs, all made possible through the kindness and generosity of supporters like you.

If would like to attend to these exclusive events, or learn more about our Guide Dog Partner program and see first-hand the impact your gift is making, please contact your dedicated Philanthropy Advisor, Tracey Pratt on 9372 4130.

Introductions

Research conducted in 2018 by the CNIB Foundation and the Blind Foundation of New Zealand, revealed that only 24% of people with low vision or blindness in Australia were employed full time. Guide Dogs is committed to improving accessibility and inclusion for people with low vision or blindness in all areas of life.

In 2022, Guide Dogs Victoria sought grant funding to provide employment and training for a person living with low vision or blindness as a Gifts in Wills Officer. We were grateful to receive $50,000 from a loyal foundation towards this initiative.

Due to the outstanding number of candidates that applied, we were unable to pick just one candidate to join the Gifts in Wills team, and excitedly welcome both Melaine and Erin to the team.

Erin and Melaine standing on a balcony with their Guide Dogs in front of them

Melaine Robinson

“My name is Melaine, and I have joined the Fundraising team as the Gifts in Wills Relationship Officer. I am also a Client of Guide Dogs Victoria and now have my first Guide Dog, Dessau. We recently celebrated our four-year anniversary. I am coming back into the workforce after a two-and-a-half-year sabbatical after 31 years of working for a large animal welfare organisation. Within that organisation I worked across a number of different areas including as a veterinary nurse, veterinary administrator, operations manager and community outreach coordinator. A fun fact about me is that in 2021, I completely by accident fell into a Community Media Training Organisation training program, produced a podcast (I did not even know what a podcast was prior to 2020!), and it won Best Feature or Documentary at the 2021 Community Broadcast Association of Australia Annual Awards!”

Erin Goedhart

My name is Erin and I am a Client of Guide Dogs Victoria and now, very fortunately, a staff member as well. As a Client, Guide Dogs Victoria have done so much for me, and it has been a dream of mine to work for them ever since I first began receiving services. I think my favourite part about working at Guide Dogs so far is being surrounded by so many other dog lovers! There is an endless supply of colleagues on hand to provide pats and belly rubs on demand. Just to be clear, that’s for Jet, my Guide Dog, not me! As part of the Gifts in Wills team, I hope to meet as many of our amazing supporters as I can. My Jet was supported by a gift in Will, and I have such love and admiration for our bequestors. Jet and I are very adventurous! We do a lot of bushwalking around our home state of Victoria. We have hiked around Dove Lake at the base of Cradle Mountain in Tassie and this year I hiked to the top of Mt Kosciusko!

By Guide Dogs Client Ingrid Barnes.

Banner the Super Guide Dog. A nod to his MARVEL namesake. Funny yes – but also fitting. I truly believe he saves me each and every day. Since the moment we started working together he restored my confidence, brought back my adventurous spirit and helped me find my voice as a disability advocate.

From boardrooms, schools, university classrooms, and training facilities – on morning news couches, radio stations, and in printed articles – Banner has led me to be seen and heard. Together we break down stereotypes of what it is to be blind, and educate others on vision loss and how to best support blind members of their community.

Banner has brought so much joy to me and the members of my family – he’s this incredibly warm and grounding presence and I love him more than anything. Outside of our work, we certainly play! At 23 domestic flights and counting, we’ve travelled around the east coast of Australia. Visiting vineyards, museums, and movie theatres. He confidently guides me through my cosplay conventions, even onstage as I emcee.  Whether we’re walking around the park or he’s at my feet snoring through a musical – I feel so calm and safe. Banner is the superhero who changed my life – and together we’re changing the world.

Client Ingrid sitting with her arms around yellow labrador Guide Dog Banner

Partnerships

Our top three tips to maintain healthy eyesight are:

  1. Wear sunglasses that meet Australian standards for UVA and UVB protection. UV exposure is particularly bad for eye health.
  2. Wear eye protection to prevent injury when working with tools, riding motorcycles, or during sport.
  3. Get regular eye tests for early detection and intervention.

Guide Dogs works with an incredible group of partners who share our values. One such partner, Ugly Fish Eyewear, specialises in eye protection.

“We are proud to support the incredible work of Guide Dogs by donating $1 from every pair of glasses sold. We’ve been protecting eyes for twenty years and know that in addition to UV damage, thousands of eye accidents happen every year in Australia. The good news is that many of these injuries are preventable with the use of appropriate safety eyewear.” Ugly Fish CEO, Faraz Darabi said.

A person standing outside wearing sunglasses and holding a white cane.

Ugly Fish safety glasses help prevent eye damage with shatterproof, impact resistant polycarbonate safety lenses, anti-fog coating, and maximum, Category 3 UV protection. Wraparound frames and removable positive seal inserts also add protection from wind, dust, and particle entry.

With maximum Category 3 UV protection, Ugly Fish polarised and light-adapting photochromic sunglasses eliminate harmful UV rays and glare which reduces squinting and eye strain. Reducing UV exposure also helps slow cataract growth and other eye conditions.

Explore the Ugly Fish range here.

Any vision issues such as lack of focus, squinting, eye soreness, discomfort, headaches, or dry eyes should be investigated by your eye care specialist (optometrist or orthoptist). Contact Guide Dogs today for advice and support.

Our Partners

  • Coles logo.
  • Greenstone logo.
  • advance logo
  • boehringer ingelheim logo
  • Petspiration Foundation
  • Woolworths logo
  • Idexx Laboratories logo.
  • Ugly Fish logo
  • KONG logo

Your donation is the difference!

Your donations to Guide Dogs Victoria help us to continue our important work, including matching Guide Dogs and Therapy Dogs, orientation and mobility services, providing regional outreach, children’s services, and delivering technology support sessions and occupational therapy through almost 3,000 Client programs.

Support Guide Dog Puppies

Donate a ball to our puppy ball pit and support puppy enrichment and training.