Today is a celebration of Guide Dogs and the important role they play in supporting people, all around the world, with low vision or blindness to achieve their goals and live independently.

In the spirit of Anzac day, which incidentally falls on the same day as International Guide Dog Day this year, we are recognising the independence and companionship Guide Dogs have provided for returned service people and civilian first responders, including those with PTSD.

Guide Dogs have provided independence and companionship for returned servicemen and women with vision loss since the origins of contemporary Guide Dogs in WW1. The First Guide Dog school opened in Germany during WW1 as a result of as much as 8% of the wounds incurred by German soldiers during this time through the war, were eye related.

One day, whilst walking through the veteran’s hospital, with his German Shepherd, Gerhard Stalling observed his dog seemingly assisting a blind veteran. This sparked Gerhard’s interest in the possibility of training German Shepherds to serve as guides. He raised funds to open the world’s first guide dog school in 1916.

The first ‘official’ partnership was formed just 8 weeks after the school opened. Paul Feyen had been blinded by a shell in the war. His brother, Verein Für Sanitätshunde, was dog trainer for the army and inspired by his brother’s vision loss, trained the first Guide Dog for the Oldenburg Centre.

Today we realise just what a positive impact this partnership has. Many of us think of a Guide Dog as a Labrador in harness guiding the handler to a destination, but Guide Dogs are so much more than just navigation dogs. They provide the security, companionship and confidence that help their handlers realise a life of independence.

Through our partnership with Integra Service Dogs Australia, Guide Dogs Victoria is widening the way we support veterans and first responders. Not every labrador is suited to the nature of guiding, and we re-assign some of these dogs to Integra and support them to be trained as assistance dogs for veterans and first responders living with PTSD. In this way, even more of our wonderful dogs can help even more Aussies to live their life with independence and confidence.

Congratulations to the following winners of our annual awards who were announced at the IGDD celebrations on Friday.

The Independence Award
In recognition for outstanding contribution to Guide Dogs Victoria.
Winner: Beverley Wilson
Beverley has volunteered with Guide Dogs Victoria for over 30 years. In that time she has taken on many roles, but perhaps is best known for raising 20 pups, which in itself is a worthy achievement. Beverley has also temporarily cared for in excess of 16 dogs. We could not do what we do without the support of our volunteers and we are especially grateful to have someone with Beverley’s experience and expertise on board.
Thank you, Beverly.

The Independence Award
In recognition for outstanding contribution to Guide Dogs Victoria.
Winner: Lyn Pandji
Lyn Pandji, lives and breathes Guide Dogs, in fact as a child she used to live on campus. Lyn is not only the incredibly talented Nursery Co-ordinator at Guide Dogs Victoria, she is also a wealth of knowledge that many people turn to for advice or answers. Lyn always makes the time to answer any questions fully and will go out of her way to help. She has an incredible understanding of Guide Dogs Victoria’s overarching mission and consistently goes above and beyond to ensure she is supporting this.
In addition to this, it has been an enormous year in the breeding kennels with the birth of close to 200 pups. Lyn has led her team with amazing composure under these extraordinary circumstances.
Thank you, Lyn.

The Freedom Award
In recognition of providing an outstanding contribution to Guide Dogs Victoria.
Winner: David Yu and Ausvest
David and his team at Auvest allow our practitioners free city car parking for work related appointments. In addition they have updated their carpark toilet facilities specifically for people with low vision and blindness. They have also donated a space and marquee to Guide Dogs Victoria at the upcoming Budda Day Festival.

Community Access Award
In recognition for going above and beyond in access, inclusion and customer service.
Winner: Etihad Stadium
Etihad have worked continuously to communicate the importance of access/inclusion to their staff at all levels. This has resulted in a great customer experience for our Clients when visiting the stadium.

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