Wednesday, 27 April 2022

I warmly welcome you to Government House to celebrate International Guide Dog Day.

I am pleased to continue the tradition of my predecessor Governors The Honourable Hieu Van Le, Rear Admiral the Honourable Kevin Scarce and The Honourable Marjorie Jackson Nelson, in marking this important day here in the grounds.

After the challenges of the pandemic restrictions, we can at last meet to celebrate how these wonderful dogs change lives.

It has been a long two years since you were last here!

The pandemic has tested everyone’s resilience. Organisations such as yours have had to be nimble and re-evaluate your thinking, adjust how you delivered services, and how you used technology to connect and collaborate to ensure the most vulnerable were cared for.

I am sure many of these learnings will help in preparation for the next challenges.

Just a few days ago, we commemorated Anzac Day and its spirit of mateship and service.

Indeed, the global Guide Dogs service grew out of the need to rehabilitate German solders blinded by poison gas who were returning from the World War I trenches.

Today in honouring the marvellous service that Guide Dogs provide in our community, we can also reflect on the trust, loyalty and mateship they provide to those living with vision loss, autism or anxiety.

To be their eyes, their ears or calming influence. To bring independence, provide mobility and break down barriers of isolation.

Not only are 39 of your current Guide Dogs assisting people living with vision loss or autism, they are providing a calming influence in schools and most recently at the Adelaide Airport.

Today we also say thanks and honour the 12 Guide Dogs who have retired or died since the previous Guide Dog Day. Their loyalty and service long remembered.

And on a day, such as today we remember the passing in December of inaugural president Frank Beauchamp, who in 1957 was a leading force when the Adelaide and Unley Apex Groups founded Guide Dogs here and continued to contribute throughout his life.

Friends, throughout the world people’s lives are enriched by our strong bonds with our dogs.

An important part of my family – alongside Rod and our adult children – is Alfie, our much loved Cavoodle.

Alfie knows when someone is feeling down, needs an encouraging nudge with his muzzle or a comforting paw.

That sense of care is at the heart of the Guide Dogs service.

As dog owners, we are well aware of the need to ensure that Guide Dogs are able to perform their important roles without distractions from other dogs or people.

In fact, Alfie is safely inside Government House, although I am sure he is avidly watching all these potential new friends from the upstairs window!

It hard to fathom that even today Guide Dogs and their handlers have been denied access to some shops, transport or accommodation.

Breaking though barriers or entrenched attitudes is never easy, education and re-education are important keys to success.

I congratulate Guide Dogs for its current Five Paws campaign leveraging the interest in International Guide Dog Day to shine a light on businesses that are embracing accessibility.

Because as a community our collective efforts can ensure everyone is welcomed equally.

The story of how a bouncing, cute, energetic puppy becomes a calm, alert, intelligent guide dog is an exacting one. It’s a journey that requires determination, resourcefulness and support.

It takes deep commitment and a special person to be part of that journey: from the puppy raisers, the trainers, the volunteers, the fundraisers and the supporters.

Thank you to all those here who have been part of that story.

I congratulate Guide Dogs for its wide range of services and a leader in its field for more than 60 years in Australia.

As your patron I hope to support your work as much as I can, because mobility, safety, access and independence are undoubted human rights.