How we began: the ’50s
In 1957 it was resolved at the Scottsdale Zone Convention that Apex would initiate the formation of a Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in Tasmania, and a sub-committee was appointed for this purpose. This committee didn’t wait for the official body to be formed before sponsoring the recipient of the first guide dog in Tasmania.
George Grainger, Chief Telephonist with the Hydro-Electric Commission in Hobart, had trained with a guide dog at the Exeter Training Centre in England but had been unable to bring his canine friend with him when he emigrated to Australia. A successful public appeal was launched and Mr Grainger was sent to Perth for retraining and 4 weeks later, in April 1958, he returned with Rumpus, Tasmania’s first guide dog.
On 30 July 1958 the Lord Mayor of Hobart, Sir Archibald Park, called a public meeting in the Town Hall at which it was decided to form Guide Dogs for the Blind Association of Tasmania, and a formation committee was elected.
In 1960 a northern regional committee was formed in Launceston with the backing of Apex, and in 1974 this committee alone raised $10,000. The committee became the forerunner of many auxiliaries established throughout the State, who existed to raise funds for the Association. Also in 1960 the Governor of Tasmania accepted patronage of the Association, and around this time the Attorney General also approved the use of the prefix “Royal”, and thus the Tasmanian branch became the only individual member of the Guide Dogs Associations to be so honoured. The Tasmanian Governor of the day traditionally accepts the position of Patron.
A Guide Dog Act, prepared by the then Minister for Health, The Hon. MG Everett QC was approved by parliament in 1967.
In 1987 we acquired office accommodation in Launceston and Devonport, and we purchased the Hobart office in 1988.
In 1987 Royal Guide Dogs took over the operations of The Lord Fraser Home for the Aged Blind in North Hobart, from the Royal Society for the Blind and Deaf, and 8 years later purchased the Crown Title to the Home from the State Government. Guide Dogs ran this facility until it was sold to the Friends School in 1996 for around $700,000 transferring its bed licences, staff and residents to the Queen Victoria Home Inc.
The Devonport office property was sold in 1995, and the Risby Street property in Ulverstone was purchased for the purposes of running a more central North-West Low Vision Clinic and fundraising depot. The Lions Club provided the equipment for the Low Vision Clinic and took an active role in promoting it. This property was sold in the mid 2000s.
In 2013 we introduced Beau, the new face of Guide Dogs Australia and Guide Dogs Tasmania.
With the introduction of a new brand and a new look, as well as the major development of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Guide Dogs Tasmania continued to provide localised, professional and accessible services.
In June 2016, a Special General Meeting of Guide Dogs Tasmania voted to merge with VisAbility, formerly the Association for the Blind of Western Australia.
Guide Dogs Tasmania President Sue Shoobridge said the merger would deliver cost savings for the organisation through the centralisation of back office and administrative tasks.
“But most importantly, the partnership will allow for the delivery of a greater range and level of service for people who are blind or vision impaired living in Tasmania,” she said.
Mrs Shoobridge said the Board had recommended the merger because of sector reforms that would have made it difficult to deliver an appropriate level and range of services for Tasmanians in the future.
“VisAbility was identified by the Board as an appropriate partner after a detailed and robust due diligence process.” More information regarding the merger can be found here.