At Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, we exist to enable people living with low vision or blindness to achieve their goals in life and connect with welcoming and inclusive communities. In recent months, it is evident that our role has never been more vital. Without skipping a beat, we came together to support those who needed us the most – and each other – in the face of an unprecedented global crisis.
At the beginning of FY 2019-20 – before the world had even heard of COVID-19 – Guide Dogs NSW/ACT had embarked on a transformative journey to redesign our service model to better serve the changing needs of our Clients and their families. These actions proved timely and ensured we had the agility to tackle the COVID-19 crisis head-on, while maintaining continuity of care for our valued Clients, and remaining connected with our volunteers, donors, supporters, and each other.
From opening the Cameron Centre in Parramatta, to celebrating ten years of the Centre for Eye Health, to participating in our very first Mardi Gras, to upgrading our technology (and our technological proficiencies), it has been a year of exploration and innovation that no one will soon forget. Now it’s time to take stock and look back at the year that was.
To empower people with low vision or blindness to actively participate in their communities.
Low vision or blindness will not limit independence.
We see beyond sight loss:
Guiding Clients to independence,
Seeking new ways to prevent blindness,
Creating connected communities.
Community growth for Guide Dogs Australia social media channels:
We believe everyone should have the same access to the support and tools required to live a free and independent life. At Guide Dogs NSW/ACT (GDN), we enable Clients to live their lives, their way. We understand that no two Clients are the same, so the journey and level of support for each Client and family is different – and that’s something we can be proud of.
At GDN, we also believe that low vision or blindness should not limit independence or the opportunity to live a rich and fulfilling life. Each year, our highly trained employees connect with over 3,000 Clients through services, newsletters or intervention, to help them achieve their mobility goals and actively participate in their communities.
The launch of our new Assistive Technology (AT) Help Desk has provided real time help, tips and support to Clients using assistive technology to navigate, connect, and achieve their goals. Peer support groups like Chatterpaws are giving Clients the opportunity to share their experiences with likeminded people in a more intimate and personal online setting.
Finally, our new ten-member Customer Advisory Panel (CAP) continues our commitment to putting Client voices first. The CAP opens new doors to Clients, providing a safe space for them to have their say and bring their lived experience and their unique and valuable perspectives to our planning and continuous improvement.
“I have some positive feedback for you and I wanted to say how much I just love our Chatter Paws group, and it is really beneficial for me and I always feel awful if there is a week when I’m unable to do it like these last two weeks. I have been enjoying connecting with other people who are like me. I feel very welcome and included in the group.” Kirrily Brooks, GDN Client
Forever focused on our purpose and mission, we combine care and careful planning to deliver successes worth celebrating.
If our Clients are at the heart of everything we do, our people are the lifeblood of our organisation. Over the last year we have seen the dedication and passion of our employees and volunteers put to the test – and we are emerging as a stronger and more unified force than ever.
We opened FY 2019-20 by introducing new services focused on connection and access – and these could not have been implemented at a more critical time. Little were we to know these employee-led innovations would take on an even more critical role in connecting Clients to us, to each other, and to the communities around them, as the world went into lockdown.
While many of our ‘in person’ volunteer programs were suspended during the COVID-19 crisis, our volunteer Puppy Raisers, Home Boarders and Home Helpers immediately rallied; working closely with us to make sure we continued to successfully raise and train future Guide Dogs. Equally, our amazing Canine Court Companion Program volunteers cared for our Court Dogs at home, as they were unable to work in the courthouses across the state during lockdown.
All around our beautiful country, there are thousands of everyday people who make the sacrifice to give freely for others in need.
At GDN, we value the investment and trust our supporters place in us every day to turn their generous donations into programs and services that support people in NSW and the ACT living with low vision or blindness to achieve their goals in life.
Like our Clients and staff, 2020 has seen us adapt to new ways of connecting with our donors. Our dedicated Fundraising staff have found innovative and exciting ways to engage our current supporters and to expand into whole new donor demographics through online events and social media. We have loved the conversations we have had with donors this year, many of which have been supporting GDN for decades.
They have lifted our spirits in challenging times and we remain eternally grateful to our amazing donors who continue to support us with as much passion and generosity as they have for more than 60 years.
You may have dropped some loose change into a coin Donation Dog. You might be a regular monthly Puppy Sponsor. You may have walked your dog to raise funds for PAWGUST. You might be a Major Sponsor, or you’ve chosen to leave us a gift in your Will.
However you have made a contribution to our vital work – we sincerely thank you!
At GDN, we are fortunate to have the support of a passionate group of National Partners who assist us through donations, products and services in kind, volunteering, and workplace giving.
We are proud to partner with the following organisations:
We would like to acknowledge the generous workplace giving donations received from staff at the following organisations:
We’re fearlessly creative. We’ve always asked and answered the tough questions and if there’s a better way, we’ll find it.
In March 2020, GDN alongside the Centre for Eye Health (CFEH), officially opened the Cameron Centre in Parramatta, providing vital eye health care and support services to residents of Western Sydney.
Named in honour of major benefactor Doug Cameron, the Centre addresses the growing demand for health services in the region, offering a three-phased approach to eye health that will proactively support people through every stage of their eye health journey:
We are exceptionally privileged to have had the generous support of Doug Cameron to enable this venture. It was wonderful to see his whole family join us for the launch and it was clear that the Cameron clan share the same passion as Doug for making a positive contribution in this world.
“I know first-hand the positive impact Guide Dogs’ services make to a person with low vision or blindness. I’m a lot more confident in not only how I move about my community, but in life in general. I’m excited that the new Cameron Centre will have all of Guide Dogs offerings under one roof, as it makes the services linear and easier to navigate in all senses. In particular I’m thrilled about the new connection services. It’s so important to foster a sense of community and to me that’s a very unique quality that Guide Dogs offers.”
Jatin Dhanji, GDN Client.
To maximise our impact and get the most out of every donated dollar, Guide Dogs needs to think commercially and sustainably. That’s why, over the last 12 months, we have established three Centres of Excellence across Guide Dogs Victoria and GDN including the:
The Centres of Excellence will allow us to create more efficiencies, lift performance and innovation levels and develop emerging leaders across both organisations to deliver the highest impact for the people we support.
Ten years ago, GDN made a commitment to not only support people living with low vision or blindness, but to proactively work to reduce the incidence of preventable blindness through a joint initiative with the University of NSW. In that time, the Centre for Eye Health (CFEH) has carried out over 65,000 appointments with more than 34,300 people receiving community-based care, preventing unnecessary referral to hospital-based ophthalmology services.
The CFEH now operates out of three key locations, including the new Cameron Centre in Parramatta, where in 2020 we commenced working with Westmead Hospital Ophthalmology under the Community Eye Care (C-Eye-C) project.
The theme of the 2020 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Parade was “What Matters” – and what matters to GDN is accessibility, inclusion, freedom and choice for Clients. We want to ensure Clients have the opportunity to participate in large scale, iconic events, and encourage inclusion and access for all. So, in February 2020, GDN participated in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras for the very first time.
A group of 60 participants including Clients with low vision or blindness, their friends and family, GDN Ambassadors including Dolly Diamond and staff marched in the parade in a float entitled, ‘Feel the Love’.
Gulliver, our much-loved, 4.3 metre, fibreglass Labrador made a special appearance wearing a costume designed in a collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and Clients. Gulliver’s giant fluorescent ensemble was created with tactile elements allowing people with low vision or blindness the opportunity to experience Gulliver’s adornments through touch.
In addition to the ‘Feel the Love’ float, GDN and MCA offered an audio description service to Clients seated in the parade’s official accessible viewing area, so those present could have the parade and its surrounds described to them in detail. Samples of Gulliver’s tactile costume were handed out in the viewing area so spectators could touch and experience the costume for themselves.
The Mardi Gras experience also generated a large amount of media coverage and brand presence, being voted by The Huffington Post as one of the best floats to look out for.
“Marching in the Mardi Gras parade is something I’ve always had on my bucket list, and I can’t wait to get involved, throw some glitter around and generally get into the spirit of the parade. When I found out Guide Dogs was participating in this year’s Mardi Gras I was so excited and just knew I had to be involved. I am bisexual and love queer pride, so for me it’s so important to feel the love for the LGBTQI community and how far we’ve come. I’m also really into cosplay, and that’s also a community were all types of people are embraced. For me, Mardi Gras really is the big package!”
Ingrid Barnes, GDN Client
The stories of our Clients, staff and volunteers, and the passion they have for our organisation, are one of our greatest assets. By telling their stories we have the power to generate change and increase awareness of both our brand and the needs of those we support. When people see us in the news, we want to authentically represent Client voices, shift attitudes through advocacy, and inspire people to help us continue the work we do.
Our 2019 International White Cane Day campaign gave us a chance to collaborate with select Apple stores to host and promote special assistive technology sessions for many of our young Clients. Guide Dog Handler James Bennett and his now retired Guide Dog Brogan were featured in stories for 2019 International Day of People with Disability, celebrating more than 400 airplane flights together and highlighting Guide Dog travel access rights.
Our involvement in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in February 2020 produced media coverage that centered on the importance of inclusion and access while footage of our first litter born in the 2020 new year resulted in more than 50 new Puppy Raising enquiries across NSW and VIC. We even had one very generous supporter confirm a bequest after seeing the amazing work of Guide Dogs in a media article.
The emergence of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown restrictions limited our access to our communities and therefore our ability to create ‘in person’ content. This also presented us with a new opportunity to generate our own content and find new ways of reaching our audience. Our International Guide Dog Day 2020 Zoom event was just one example; allowing us to share this iconic day on the GDN calendar by beaming directly into people’s lounge rooms through their computer screens. The day generated a huge amount of media interest, and created increased engagement through our social media channels.
Since January 2020, these stories of real people facing and overcoming real challenges have reached a huge 350 million people across the country. We are confident that by continuing our successful collaboration with Guide Dog organisations around Australia, we will only see this increase, for the benefit of those whose stories are being heard, and the longevity of the GDN brand.
Community growth for Guide Dogs Australia social media channels:
We all know how powerful social media can be in keeping people connected, especially those members of our community who are most vulnerable or isolated. We also know how vital this connection is during COVID-19 and we wanted to make it easier for our social media followers to get the most timely and critical content all in the one place.
In April 2020, we embarked on a mission to streamline state-based Guide Dogs social media pages into one united channel, starting by bringing together GDN and Guide Dogs Victoria under the Guide Dogs Australia national brand.
By the end of June, the Guide Dogs Australia Facebook had grown by over 7,000 new followers which was seven times higher than the growth achieved by the Guide Dogs Australia pages in the previous period! As a result of the success of the trial, Guide Dogs SA/NT and Guide Dogs Queensland joined the social media consolidation trial in August 2020.
From a guiding hand to a high five, we unleash and acknowledge everyone’s potential.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should exercise caution when viewing this webpage as it may contain images of deceased persons. GDN continues to share Aunty Mary’s story and message as per the wishes of her family.
Aunty Mary was an Indigenous Elder and Bundjalung woman who played a major role connecting GDN to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Sadly, Aunty Mary passed away on Monday 30 September 2019.
Aunty Mary started working with GDN in 2012, with the creation and development of education materials in ‘Aunty Mary’s Story’ which later became the Aunty Mary Program. This project was developed to help Indigenous Peoples learn the importance of looking after their eyesight.
Aunty Mary worked tirelessly, and with the strong support of her husband Rodney, to educate her own community through field days, the annual Yarbon Festivals, and other events. She worked alongside Aboriginal Eye Health specialists, Optometrists, and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, presenting at numerous conferences.
Aunty Mary is remembered for her natural warmth, sense of humour and relentless promotion of GDN’s services in her desire to improve the eye health of Indigenous Peoples. She even had her own long cane painted in the colours of the Aboriginal flag. She is greatly missed.
|Gifts in Wills||29,670,356|
|Donations and other fundraising activities||15,382,609|
|National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Medicare and other government revenue||4,477,950|
|Income from investments||1,226,806|
|Contract Services income||395,543|
|Client and community services||24,329,697|
|Costs of fundraising and Gifts in Wills||6,791,823|
|Governance, finance, and administration||6,074,132|
|Gifts in Wills||29,670||13,367|
|Sale of fundraising merchandise||128||133|
|NDIS, Medicare and other government revenue||4,478||3,155|
|Contract Services income||396||401|
|Income received upon closure of Future Fund||–||3,636|
|Net (loss)/gain on financial assets including the fair value movement through profit and loss||(1,522)||1,076|
|Loss on disposal of non-current assets||(97)||(161)|
|Client services costs||(24,231)||(23,599)|
|Community education and advocacy||(99)||(136)|
|Fundraising overheads including:|
|– Fundraising donor management||(2,510)||(2,691)|
|– Planned giving expenditure||(706)||(898)|
|– Appeal costs||(3,576)||(4,800)|
|Governance and administrative services||(6,074)||(5,851)|
|Surplus/ (Deficit) before gain on disposal of building||11,809||(5,256)|
|Gain on disposal of building||17,487|
|Net surplus/(deficit) from continuing activities||29,296||(5,256)|
|Other comprehensive income||–||–|
|Total comprehensive income||29,296||(5,256)|
|Cash and cash equivalents||4,399||4,100|
|Trade and other receivables||1,875||1,206|
|Other financial assets||42,650||5,957|
|Other current assets||287||337|
|Total current assets||49,239||11,627|
|Other financial assets||17||250|
|Financial assets at fair value through profit or loss||36,452||37,917|
|Property, plant and equipment||8,358||13,859|
|Total non-current assets||48,054||52,069|
|Trade and other payables||2,343||1,774|
|Employee leave provisions||1,643||1,575|
|Total current liabilities||5,413||3,349|
|Employee leave provisions||335||361|
|Leasehold make good liability||115||115|
|Total non-current liability||2,847||476|
|Total accumulated funds||89,033||59,871|
Gifts In Wills
And the hundreds of other wonderful Guide Dogs Donation Dog hosts across NSW and the ACT