History.

Learn about our history, from the 1950s right through until today!
A 1940's black and white image of two people outside a Guide Dog Training Centre. One of the people in kneeling down next to a yellow labrador Guide Dog in harness and the other is holding a yellow ten week old labrador puppy. Both dogs and people are looking at the camera.

Our Story

The Guide Dogs story starts all the way back in 1950.

In 1950, Dr. Arnold Cook arrived in Australia with the country’s first Guide Dog. A young West Australian, Arnold lost his sight at the age of 18 through a rare disease.

Arnold became familiar with Guide Dogs after travelling to England to study at the London School of Economics. He trained at Britain’s Guide Dog Association and was paired with a black Labrador named Dreana.

A person laying on some grass with an eight week old yellow labrador puppy. The person is smiling and looking at the camera. The puppy is also looking at the camera.

Early beginnings

Arnold and his Guide Dog, Dreana, created enormous interest upon their return to Australia.

Unsurprisingly, many other West Australians with low vision were eager to partner with a Guide Dog, and a year later the first Guide Dog Association was formed in Perth.

By 1957 there were Guide Dog Associations in each state.

An eight week old yellow labrador puppy resting its head and paws on a person's shoulder.

Through the decades: 1950s

Check out the highlights from our history through the '50s:

1950: Arnold Cook returns to Australia with his UK-trained Guide Dog ‘Dreena’. Arnold Cook was the first Guide Dog handler in Australia.

1951: Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is established in Perth, with financial assistance from the Claremont Apex Club.

1952: ‘Beau’, the first Australian-trained Guide Dog, is matched with a handler, Mrs Elsie Mead.

1957: Guide Dogs for the Blind Association of New South Wales is formed, along with a new national Guide Dogs association.

A person with a big smile looking straight at the camera.

Through the decades: 1960s

Check out the highlights from our history through the '60s:

1962: Guide Dogs are permitted to travel inside planes.

1964: Jim Jones was appointed the first full-time secretary, organiser of Guide Dogs for the Blind Association of NSW.

1966: The addition of mobility aids to the provision of Guide Dogs necessitated extra staff numbers and an increase in fundraising activity.

An eight week old yellow labrador puppy outside looking at the camera.

Through the decades: 1970s

Check out the highlights from our history through the '70s:

1973: Juliet Jones was appointed our first Australian-trained Orientation & Mobility Instructor.

1979: At the request of clients, we changed our name to Guide Dogs Association of New South Wales, reflecting the fact that not all people with low vision are blind.

A person sitting outside on the grass with a smile on their face looking at the camera. They have one leg bent with their arm wrapped around their knee and a white cane next to them.

Through the decades: 1980s

Check out the highlights from our history through the '80s:

1984: Therapy Dogs Program, a community service providing companion dogs for people who may have limited social contact due to disability, age or ill health, is launched.

A yellow ten week old labrador puppy s outside and seated next to a bottle of dog health products. The dog has lifted its front paw off the ground.

Through the decades: 1990s

Check out the highlights from our history through the '90s:

1991: NSW and ACT Associations merge to become the Guide Dogs Association of New South Wales and ACT.

1999: The Association, in conjunction with the University of Newcastle, develops a new course for the training of Orientation & Mobility Instructors.

A person standing outside in a garden with a smile on their face looking at the camera.

Through the decades: 2000s

Check out the highlights from our history through the 2000s:

2000: The new state-of-the-art Guide Dogs Centre at Glossodia is opened by the Governor of New South Wales.

2003:  The company is renamed Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to reflect current thinking and style, and moves its head office to Chatswood.

2009: The Centre for Eye Health, an initiative of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and The University of New South Wales, is opened by the Governor of New South Wales.

A yellow eight week old labrador puppy looking at the camera with a toy in its mouth.

Through the decades: 2010s

Check out the highlights from our history through the 2010s:

2012: A puppy breeding program is established to enhance control of Guide Dog quality and graduate numbers.

2017: Guide Dogs NSW/ACT celebrated 60 years of assisting people with low vision and blindness, enhancing independence and mobility through world-class service provision.

A young child looking at the camera smiling.

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