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18 February, 2016

Gulliver's travels in Albury

Bhutanese students waving in front of Gulliver, the giant fiberglass Guide Dog

Giant Guide Dog spreads important message to multicultural community

Wearing a traditional Nepalese flower garland around his neck, the world's biggest Guide Dog, Gulliver, has spent the week spreading a very important message to the culturally diverse community of Albury.

The 4.3 metre tall, 690 kilogram fibreglass Guide Dog made pit stops at the Albury Wodonga Community College and Albury TAFE to inform multicultural students about the free services Guide Dogs NSW/ACT provide to people who are blind or vision impaired.

"Guide Dogs is focused on ensuring that everyone, no matter who they are, where they are from or what language they speak, knows that we provide free services that can enable people who are blind or vision impaired to get around safely and independently," Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Regional Manager, Ross Still said.

After a presentation from Guide Dogs, students of Bhutanese, Nepalese and other backgrounds were given the opportunity to put on goggles that simulate vision loss and try out different mobility devices, including the long cane.

While Gulliver's presence around Albury aims to raise awareness of the organisation's free services, Mr Still emphasized that it's important for the community to understand that Guide Dogs are not the only service provided by the organisation.

"A dog is not for everyone. Guide Dogs NSW/ACT also provide a range of mobility aids such as the long cane, and our Orientation and Mobility Specialists can offer a confidential assessment on a person's particular situation," Mr Still said.

"It's also important for people to know that you do not have to be blind to receive our free services. Some people are born blind, while others might lose their sight gradually and still have some remaining vision," Mr Still said. "Anyone losing their sight is encouraged to contact us early, to reduce the risks of falls, accidents and depression."

Like Gulliver on his travels throughout the ACT and NSW, Mr Still also stressed that Guide Dogs O&M Specialists travel to wherever their services are required.

"We come to you, wherever that may be - your home, your workplace, your school or university - learning to find your way around your particular environment is a top priority."

There are an estimated 300,000 Australians with uncorrectable vision loss, 100,000 of whom live in NSW and the ACT. These figures are predicted to increase by more than 50% by 2030.

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