Graeme was born blind. In the past, Graeme has held the position of Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, and previously the position of Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner for six years. Prior to this, Graeme was travelling successfully with a white cane; but as he was getting into more senior roles, he decided to take a bit of stress out of his life. This being a big change, Graeme thought very carefully about applying for a Guide Dog and has not regretted his decision for one minute. “I still use a cane occasionally and I do that quite confidently. What the dog does is really take that to another level,” says Graeme.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT provided Graeme’s first Guide Dog, Jordie, in 1998, when he started working at the Human Rights Commission. She travelled to New York several times with Graeme for work and around the world once. After Jordie retired in 2007, Graeme immediately received Arrow. Since then, she has travelled extensively around Australia.
Arrow has been with Graeme to all the destinations his past and current roles demand: parliament houses, TV studios, meetings with government ministers and senior officials, and many meetings with people in the community and community organisations. Graeme has been able to fulfil his high profile roles because of his Guide Dogs. “They’ve enabled me to do my job effectively: being involved with advocating for and assisting a range of disadvantaged groups. I have been facilitated in doing that with my two Guide Dogs who have been critical to me being able to travel within Australia and overseas,” says Graeme.
In 2014 Graeme was an ambassador for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT as part of our “Take the Lead Campaign”, which asked dog owners to keep their pet dogs on a lead when walking near a Guide Dog.
“If there is another dog off leash, Arrow will get thrown off, especially if they want to play with her or chase her. It then makes it difficult for her to keep working effectively” Graeme explained when launching the campaign.
Graeme has experienced these incidences a number of times, and in some cases he has had to physically put himself between the two dogs to stop them interacting.
“The trouble is that it is unexpected and it happens so fast. I’m not the sort of person who worries about what might happen, but when it does happen, those situations are very disruptive and disturbing of my independence. If I cannot see the other dog, I don’t know what we are dealing with and you become scared for yourself and your Guide Dog. With smaller dogs I am scared they may distract the operation of the working Guide Dog and that it may put me in danger, especially if I’m about to cross the road,” says Graeme.