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27 January, 2017

Guide Dogs Board Member awarded Order of Australia Medal

James Bennett kneels beside his previous Guide Dog, Putu, outside on an Airport runway

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Board member and experienced Disability Services Auditor, James Bennett, has been awarded the Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia for his services to the blind and low vision community. 

As a Board member for the past six years, Mr Bennett has provided a wealth of experience in and knowledge of both state and national disability services to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, through his work as a technical expert in the disability services sector.

“What I enjoy most about my job is that it gives me the opportunity and the platform to make a difference in the lives of people who live with disability,” Mr Bennett said.

Mr Bennett, who went blind in 2004, was inspired to join the Board of Guide Dogs after receiving services from the organisation. 

“After losing my sight, I needed to find a way to continue working and to maintain my lifestyle, and Guide Dogs has been the answer,” said Mr Bennett, who, with his Guide Dog Brogan, is close to clocking up 300 domestic flights around Australia.

“My job requires me to travel across the country at least every second week, if not every week. As my wife can’t come with me, I wouldn’t be able to do this without Brogan to guide me.

“I wanted to give back to the organisation and believe my business experience and knowledge of the disability services sector have enabled me to make a valuable contribution to Board discussions.”

James Bennett stands beside his current Guide Dog, Brogan, in Sydney Airport

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT CEO Dr Graeme White said that Mr Bennett’s knowledge of the disability services sector, business background and as a user of Guide Dogs’ services have been of great benefit to the organisation.

“As the leading provider of mobility services for people who are blind or vision impaired, the Guide Dogs Board has benefited considerably from James’ personal and professional insights into vision related issues,” Dr White said.

“He is dedicated to serving the blind and vision impaired community and very worthy of receiving this award.”

Mr Bennett, who also sits on several advisory committees with the National Disability Services, covering Open Employment and Australian Disability Enterprises, was humbled to receive the OAM.

“I’m excited and feel very honoured. It came as a total surprise, as I believe there are many more people worthy than me, but I am extremely appreciative,” Mr Bennett said.

Demand for Guide Dogs is on the rise as vision loss is increasing in the community. Every day, 28 Australians are diagnosed with vision loss that cannot be corrected, including nine who are diagnosed as blind.