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Our History of Guide Dogs

At Guide Dogs Australia, we have a rich history dating back to the 1950’s. Our history has enabled us to emerge as the leading provider of Guide Dogs and orientation and mobility services

A black and white photo of a Labrador puppy

1950    Arnold Cook returns to Australia with his UK-trained Guide Dog ‘Dreena’. Arnold Cook was the first Guide Dog handler in Australia. 

1951    Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is established in Perth with financial assistance from the Claremont Apex Club.

1952    ‘Beau’, the first Australian-trained Guide Dog, is matched with a blind handler, Mrs Elsie Mead.

1957    Guide Dogs for the Blind Association of New South Wales is formed, along with a new national Guide Dogs association.

1962    Guide Dogs were permitted to travel inside planes.

1964    Jim Jones was appointed the first full-time secretary, organiser of Guide Dogs for the Blind Association of NSW.

1966    The addition of mobility aids to the provision of Guide Dogs necessitated extra staff numbers and an increase in fundraising activity.

1973    Juliet Jones was appointed our first Australian-trained Orientation & Mobility Instructor.

1979    At the request of clients, we changed our name to Guide Dogs Association of New South Wales, reflecting the fact that not all people with vision impairment are blind.

1984    Therapy Dogs Program, a community service providing companion dogs for people who may have limited social contact due to disability, age or ill health, is launched.

1991    NSW and ACT Associations merge to become the Guide Dogs Association of New South Wales and ACT.

1999    The Association, in conjunction with the University of Newcastle, develops a new course for the training of Orientation & Mobility Instructors.

2000    The new state-of-the-art Guide Dogs Centre at Glossodia is opened by the Governor of New South Wales.

2003    The company is renamed Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to reflect current thinking and style, and moves its head office to Chatswood.

2009    The Centre for Eye Health, an initiative of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and The University of New South Wales, is opened by the Governor of New South Wales.

2012    A puppy breeding program is established to enhance control of Guide Dog quality and graduate numbers.

2017    Guide Dogs NSW/ACT celebrated 60 years of assisting people with vision impairment and enhancing their independence and mobility through the services offered.