Tuesday, 21 August 2018
I have had some very special guests in Canberra today. Their names are Indigo and Ginger. They're puppies, but they're not just any puppies; they're Vision Australia seeing eye dog puppies. Indigo and Ginger have been here with me all day to highlight the role seeing eye dogs play in assisting people who are blind or who have low vision. For the people who rely on them, seeing eye dogs make it possible to have a life of independence, mobility and opportunity.
Vision Australia's Victorian head office is located in Higgins, so I have been very fortunate to see their incredible work firsthand. Across Australia they provide support to more than 27,500 people of all ages each year. And I'm privileged to be hosting Vision Australia in parliament today, including board member Cameron Roles, with Cooper, and government relations manager Chris Edwards, with Odie, as well as CEO Ron Hooten and Kate Begley.
It's inspiring to witness these dogs at work. They help people like Cameron and Chris navigate the world with confidence. Seeing eye dogs enable people to catch public transport, get to and from work, navigate shopping centres and participate with confidence in everyday life. Each seeing eye dog takes an enormous responsibility to keep their partner safe. It takes between 14 and 18 months to train a dog. This starts at just eight weeks of age. Only around 35 of these dogs graduate each year. In the first 18 months of its life, a seeing eye dog lives with a volunteer puppy carer. While it can be hard work, it is also extremely rewarding and certainly changes lives for the better.
In the past few months, more than 100 puppies have been born at Seeing Eye Dogs. This means there is a great need for more puppy carers. As a volunteer puppy carer, you play a formative role in the development of a seeing eye dog. Puppy development trainers frequently visit new carers to provide support and advice, which is what Lester and Brittany have been doing for me today as I have been a puppy carer for 24 hours. I urge anyone who thinks that they could support a seeing eye dog in training to contact Vision Australia on 1300847466. But, if you're unable to care for a puppy, there is still something that you can do. You can help one be trained. You can make a donation. It costs around $50,000 for one seeing eye dog to graduate, so every single dollar counts. I want to thank Vision Australia for the incredible work that they do to help fellow Australians who so vitally need their work, support and care. Long may it continue. I'm totally privileged to host you today.