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Guide Dogs launches awareness campaign to assist Aboriginal people with vision loss

03 September, 2013

A new video promoting services available for Aboriginal people with vision loss will be launched today in Wellington, where it was filmed, to mark the Central West NSW town's NAIDOC Week celebrations.

Titled 'Aunty Mary's Story', the video and an accompanying booklet and poster are the cornerstone of a collaborative campaign between Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and Aboriginal Elder Aunty Mary Hooker, a Bundjalung woman, who has impaired vision.

Through telling Aunty Mary's story about how Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's free services helped her re-gain her confidence and independence, the campaign aims to raise awareness that assistance is readily and freely available. The video and booklet both include information about vision loss, common vision conditions and practical tips on how to assist people whose vision is impaired.

"I'm excited about this campaign as I want to ensure other Aboriginal people who have impaired vision don't wait like I did to seek assistance from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT," says Aunty Mary, whose vision is impaired due to diabetic retinopathy.

"My eyesight changed from day to day, but when I lost my sight I was terrified of going outside. After listening to an ad on TV about Guide Dogs - that they offered cane training not just dogs - I contacted them. They came to my home to teach me cane training. They taught me how to get to the shops, cross the road safely and move around my community on my own.

"I wouldn't have gained my confidence without the free training and support from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. I now have a cane in Aboriginal colours - it makes me feel proud."

To view the video of Aunty Mary's Story on the Guide Dogs Youtube channel, click on the following image:

Aunty Mary

To download the booklet, click on the following image:


With blindness rates in Aboriginal adults over six times the rate in mainstream Australia and vision loss in general on the rise due to the ageing population , Guide Dogs NSW/ACT hopes its new campaign will see more Aboriginal people with vision loss utilising its free training programs in how to move around safely and independently.

"Understandably because of our name people assume all we do is train and provide guide dogs," said Regina Renfree, Regional Manager for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

"But as evidenced by Aunty Mary's story we do so much more and we're grateful for this opportunity to extend that message.

"Aunty Mary's story has been the inspiration for this campaign and we hope it inspires other people in Aboriginal communities who might be blind or have impaired vision to also seek our help."

Andrew Gee, State Member for Orange, attended today's launch and delivered the following speech on behalf of Victor Dominello, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs congratulating Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and Aunty Mary for the new campaign:

"As the State Member for Orange, I am proud to represent the many Aboriginal constituents who live in my electorate.

In this day and age, it's difficult to believe or accept that Aboriginal people over the age of 40 years have six times the rate of blindness of those in the broader community. But it's a fact.

It is therefore my honour to represent my Parliamentary colleague, the Honourable Victor Dominello, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, at this important launch.

Today, through the commitment of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, and Aunty Mary Hooker, we are reaching for solutions that will enable Aboriginal people who are blind or vision impaired to participate fully in all aspects of community life.
I am especially pleased that Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has taken advice from a Bundjalung woman, Aunty Mary Hooker, in your development of culturally appropriate information and materials.

These will help Aboriginal people who are blind or vision impaired gain greater confidence and independence through the services and support provided by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

These materials, I am confident, will also encourage other members of the community to seek help early to minimise their chances of losing eyesight.

I wish to thank Mary Hooker for volunteering to provide guidance in this campaign. Mary Hooker's experience as a vision impaired Elder of the Aboriginal community will ensure that the education process is well directed."

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is the leading provider of training for people with impaired vision on how to safely move through different environments. Training may include teaching people how to use aids such as long canes, guide dogs and electronic devices, like talking GPS, as well as skills such as safe road-crossing techniques and use of public transport.

With 10 offices across NSW and ACT, including in Central West NSW, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is committed to serving all communities and providing local services wherever possible.

The new information kits will be distributed to Aboriginal health workers and communities and available on request from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT by calling 9412 9300.

For more information about Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's services please visit or call 9412 9300.


MEDIA: Please contact Sally Edgar, 0413 753 241 or

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is the leading provider of guide dogs and orientation and mobility services to enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities independently. Services include providing training and aids including long canes, guide dogs and electronic travel devices such as talking GPS technology. Visit, call 1800 804 805, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.