On this page you will find a history of Guide Dogs in Australia.
To Guide and Guard
An early history of Guide Dogs in Australia – By Alexandra Hasluck
Foreword – by His Excellency the Governor of Western Australia, Major-General Sir Douglas Kendrew, K.C.M.e.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O.
How often has the sympathetic consideration of others, suffering from the same disability, brought help and confort to an unfortunate individual. Perhaps there is no better illustration of this than the story, here told, of a man who, as a healthy and gifted youth in his late teens, when life and learning meant so much to him, was suddenly deprived of that most precious of all gifts – sight.
Dr. Arnold Cook will always be remembered as the one responsible for the establishment in Australia of a school for the training of guide-dogs to lead the blind, based on the system which had been operating for twenty years in the U.K., Europe and U.S.A.
Attempts on such a project had previously been made in certain eastern states, but it was the privilege of the people of Western Australia to establish, on a sound basis, this invaluable service to the blind. Without the generous support of the citizens in money and personal service, this could not have been achieved.
Alexandra Hasluck’s documentary record of the trials and tribulations of the organisation, more particularly in the nursery stages, is certainly a valuable contribution to the story of Perth’s progress in the field of human service.
To Guide and Guard
Perth, Western Australia, was the first city in the Australian Commonwealth and, in fact, in the whole southern hemisphere, to establish a centre for the training of dogs to guide the blind. No magic wand brought this about in the twinkling of an eye; much hard work was involved. One man had the idea – perhaps it would be wrong in this case to call it a vision – and several others helped him press it into growth. It would be fair to say that none of them had any notion of the size to which the idea, transformed into reality, would grow, or that it would become an Australia-wide concern.
The generative impulse for a guide dog training centre started with a young man, Arnold Cook, born 5th May, 1922. He had gone blind with a rare disease of the eye, retinitis pigmentosa, at the age of eighteen. The blow was shattering; but calling up all the resources of an intelligent and disciplined mind, Cook proceeded to learn Braille and commenced an Arts degree at the University of Western Australia in 1944. He was married in December, 1946, and graduated as a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Economics in 1947. His University record was so good that he was awarded a Hackett Scholarship to study in England, and went there in 1948. But work at the London School of Economics in the heart of a city learning with fast traffic was a vastly different proposition from work at the University of Western Australia dreaming on the quiet waters of Matilda Bay. Quite by chance, while visiting the parents o a University colleague, Cook heard about the Guide Dogs for the Blind Centre at Leamington Spa. The idea of more and safer freedom of movement appealed to him, and, always a man to act on an idea, he went to the newly formed Centre at Exeter. Here he eventually acquired a black Labrador named Dreena, the first guide dog from the Exeter Centre and later to become the most famous dog in all Western Australia for a while. Drecna gave him back independence of movement, the ability to make his own life and have his own privacy without obligation to others. In 1950 he completed his course at the London School of Economics and returned to Western Australia late in August of that year.
The University of Western Australia had made Arnold Cook the offer of an appointment as a lecturer in Economies. lie soon became an eye-catching figure in Perth as black Dreena led him skilfully along the crowded footpaths. Convinced as he was of the benefit he had gained from the use of a guide dog, he decided that others should share it, and characteristically wasted no time but turned his thoughts into aetion. He got in touch with the Secretary of the Braille Society of Western Australia, Mrs. Constance Gibbon, and with her consulted Mr. Gerald Keall, Honorary Solicitor for the Braille Society. They discussed at length the advisability of starting a guide dog training centre in Perth, rather than in Sydney or Melbourne. However, as they were aware, various attempts had been made to start the guide dog movement in other States and had proved unsuccessful. They felt it could be started in a small way in Perth, where it would have the advantage of Arnold Cook’s knowledge and example. The three of them then decided to approach the Honourable James A. Dimmitt, M.L.C., and ask him to convene a committee for the purpose of establishing a centre for training guide dogs in Western Australia.
Mr. Dimmitt proved agreeable and asked his friend, Mr. Sam Clarkson (who was a member of the Rotary Club of Fremantle and a retired manager of Commonwealth Oil Refineries in W.A.), to join the committee, together with Mr. P. J. O’Neill, then President of the W.A. Kennel Club. These gentlemen, together with Mr. Cook, Mr. Keall and Mrs. Gibbon, formed the initial gathering which met in the office of Mr. Dimmitt on December 1, 1950, to consider the establishment of a Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
The history of the Guide Dogs for the Blind movement is interesting It appears to have started just before 1819, in which year Herr Johann Wilhelm Klein, founder of the Institute for the Training of the Blind at Vienna, published a book on the education of the blind. In this book Herr Klein dwelt at some length on the subject of dogs especially trained for the use of his wards, and with the methods by which the blind could make use of the dogs so trained. Like many innovators, however, he was too much in advance of his time. It was not till 110 years later that Dr. L. Gabler of Berlin reprinted and edited Klein’s volume, remarking that there was no way of knowing whether his suggestions had been carried out. By that time, 1929, the use of dogs for various purposes requiring intelligence had been established during the first world war, on both sides. In August, 1916, Dr. Gerhard Stalling of Oldenburg organised the first permanent school for the sole purpose of educating dogs for use with the blind. In April, 1925, the Oldenburg school was taken over as a working unit by the German Association for the Blind.
In 1925 an American woman, Dorothy Harrison Eustis, daughter of the Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, visited Germany and became greatly interested in the work that dogs were doing for the blind of Germany. She wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post, which was published in 1927, describing the work done. The immediate result of this article was a demand from the blind of America for a similar training centre for dogs there. Dorothy Harrison Eustis organised in America a body called The Seeing Eye, and shortly after this L’Oeuil qui You was founded in Vevey, Switzerland.
As Western Australia was later to find, the idea, once established, caught on. It appealed, naturally, to the many active blind people in the world, and it appealed by its imaginative yet practical purpose to the general public, who had eventually to support it. The dog, long known as the friend of man, now became his benefactor.
The English school for training guide dogs was started by Captain Nicolai Liakoff at Wallasey, near Liverpool, in 1931, and was transferred to Leamington Spa in Warwickshire in 1940. Captain Liakoff, a former officer of a Cossack regiment in the first world war, had trained at L’Oeuil qui Volt in Switzerland. The school he opened was a success and a branch was formed at Exeter. It was at this school that Arnold Cook trained with Dreena and came into contact with Miss Betty Bridge, who was to become the first guide dog trainer in Australia.
Betty Bridge, whose home was in Essex, had been doing secretarial work in London. She was very much of an outdoor girl, however, and had always loved dogs and understood them. On hearing of Captain Liakoff’s work in training dogs for the blind she applied for a position on his staff. She was told that only men were wanted. But by 1943 suitable men were scarce in England and eventually Betty Bridge became one of Captain Liakoff’s pupils. After three years she gained her diploma and then spent five years as a trainer. When it was decided to open another training centre in an old manor house at Exeter, Betty and three men were sent to work there; Betty, small, pale and red-headed, being in charge of dog-training.
THE GROUP of people desirous of starting a guide dog training centre in Perth had formed themselves into an Association in December, 1950, with the Honourable J. A. Dimmitt as President, Mrs. Constance Gibbon as Honorary Secretary (also temporarily acting as Treasurer), Messrs. S. Clarkson, A. Cook, G. Keall and P. J. O’Neill as committee members. They met for the first time as a properly constituted committee on 4th January, 1951. Already possible sites for a centre had been investigated by Mr. O’Neill and Mr. Clarkson, and the best proposition seemed to be to hire part of the Dogs’ Refuge Home, a home for strays, at Shenton Park, as was recommended by the Association’s Honorary Veterinarian, Mr. T. Hogarth. Arnold Cook, who had kept in touch with Betty Bridge and had learned from her that her parents had emigrated to New Zealand and that she was going out to join them, reported that her ship was to pass through Fremantle on 11th January, and it was decided that Mr. Cook and a deputation should meet her and try to interest her in taking charge of a Training Centre for Guide Dogs in Western Australia.
During the day Miss Bridge was in port she met the committee and other people concerned and showed herself agreeable to returning to Western Australia in about six or eight months’ time. This gave the committee time to begin fund-raising and publicity. On 24th June, 1951, it applied for incorporation as an Association. It began to get the land on the Dogs’ Home property equipped with fenced-in yards and buildings. As the committee had started with no funds at all, the question of buildings was an item to be keenly considered. It was only six years since the end of the Second World War, and building materials were still not available in great quantity, and were costly. As in many other cases, the obvious starting point was to try to acquire surplus army huts. But even these were unobtainable. By September, 1951, the most that could be achieved was two old tram-cars–one to serve as living quarters for Miss Bridge (whose arrival from New Zealand was imminent), and the other for cutting up of meat for the dogs, and for lectures to blind students when they were training with their dogs. The Tramways Department had agreed to let the committee have two old bogie trams for approximately £90.
The trams, of course, would have to be adapted and fitted up for their new uses. At this point, the newly formed Apex Club of Claremont came to the rescue of the committee’s meagre finances. Apex members were prepared to do the necessary work to fit up the tram-cars as accommodation and as utility rooms. As a result of this kind offer, the Apex Club was asked if one of its members could join the Executive Committee of the Guide Dogs Association. The Apex Club was to continue to the end as one of the main, and certainly the most active, benefactors of the guide dog movement. The architect, Mr. R. Summer- hayes, offered his advice to help in transforming the trams; and other offers of help so much needed at this initial stage were made by the Dogs’ Refuge Home, which allowed the Association to connect its pipes to their water supply, and by Rotarian George Boucher, who offered to lay the pipes free of charge.
Although there had not been as yet a great deal of publicity, donations had begun to come in. “Anonymous” had sent a cheque for £100 through the Braille Society, and Mr. N. Brearley one for £250. The Country Women’s Association had rallied early and their country centres had sent in cheques for small but useful amounts, as also had private donors. There was enough in hand to purchase the tramcars, and after this, by 15th October, 1951, the Association’s bank balance stood at £362.
Miss Bridge arrived in Perth on 30th November, 1951, and met the full committee and their wives two days later at a morning party at Mrs. Gibbon’s residence in Cottesloe. The committee had decided that she should be known as Director of Training, and prevailed on her to accept £6.50 per week, although she generously offered to work for six months in an honorary capacity, in order to spare the Association’s funds. She was to have a helper, to be paid £2 per week. In welcoming Miss Bridge, the President said that they were all looking to her for guidance and would be glad to hear all the details she could give. Miss Bridge responded, saying that she realised finance was a consideration but that from her experience in England, she thought that funds would flow in when guide dogs were seen in action in city streets. In this she was later proved right. She also averred that the first essential of the proposed training centre was a motor van in which dogs could be taken to the worst conditions of city traffic for training. This would have to be done two or three times a day for at least a fortnight at the end of training for the purpose of testing the dogs. Private ears would be out of the question. A van was needed because blind students would eventually have to accompany the dogs.
This brought home to the committee the unknown quantities with which they were dealing, and faced them with another expensive necessity. The project which had looked so simple at first was becoming more complex.
Miss Bridge also mentioned the extremely important essential of a supply of puppies for training. Obviously there could not be a Guide Dogs for the Blind scheme without dogs.
The committee had optimistically thought that in a country like Australia where dogs of remarkable intelligence were so much used for work in pastoral areas, the canine problem should not be difficult to solve. Miss Bridge explained that to achieve an output of twelve trained dogs a year, a supply of about fifty dogs between the ages of ten to eighteen months was necessary. Mr. Dimmitt promised to arrange for Miss Bridge to address the Rotary Club of Perth so that she might inspire pastoralist members to assist in the procuring of suitable dogs.
But as it was to prove, the problem of supply was not so easy of solution. The Australian Kelpie and Blue Heeler, sheep and cattle dogs, although almost telepathic in intelligence and with great ability for training and obedience, were in their physical make-up too highly strung and too active to adapt to the patient slow-motion needed by dogs that walk at the pace of their blind owners. The Labrador, or Labrador cross, was favoured by Miss Bridge. It was a good-sized dog, affectionate and even-tempered, neither too fast nor too lethargic. She also liked English Border Collies and their cross-breeds. In America, she remarked, the Alsatian or the Boxer, another German breed, were mostly used. Female dogs were preferred for training. They were seldom molested by aggressive dogs encountered in the street, and were therefore far more satisfactory. They could be recalled twice a year for further training at the oestrus period.
The actual training, said Miss Bridge, commenced when the dogs were about a year old when they had lost their puppy habits and commenced to show character formation. Dogs showing marked fear of traffic, people, cats, vehicles, other dogs or certain noises could be given special attention in an attempt to overcome these phobias but unless there was a marked response they were usually rejected. It had to be remembered that any faults were magnified tenfold when a dog was guiding a blind person. A slight tendency to nervousness or aggressiveness, for instance, that could be checked easily by a timely word from a sighted person could lead to serious trouble for a blind owner. Therefore, nervous or aggressive dogs were usually culled unless the fault could be eradicated quickly and surely.
She explained that dogs of suitable temperament were taught to stop upon reaching a kerb. This had to be a voluntary check and not brought about by a spoken command. There were four basic orders: “Forward”, “Stop”, “Left” and “Right”. The dogs were trained to answer promptly to these spoken commands. On reaching a kerb a dog was taught to stop automatically and not move forward until commanded.
One of the most difficult features of the dog’s training was to teach it to exercise its own discretion and even to disobey the “Forward” order if danger from oncoming traffic made it necessary. Her audience found this the point at which the imagination boggled. They asked themselves, how does the guide dog exercise its own discretion? They had always understood that the orders lower than Man were unable to exercise reason; but this argument broke down in face of guide dog training. Obviously the whole point of the guide dog’s existence depended upon the fact of the dog’s being able to choose either the path that would lead to disaster, or the path that by reasoning against the instinct to obey would be the safe one.
Miss Bridge described the guide dog harness, a light chain collar together with a long upright U-shaped handle held by the blind person. This harness was later made and adapted by Mallabones Ltd., and was supplied free of charge through the kindness of Mr. K. Mallabone, who joined the committee in 1954. The harness was not to be used by anyone except a properly trained guide dog and his owner. In 1955 it was further improved by the addition of luminous tape, which gave more protection for night use. The dog was taught that once its harness was in position it was “on duty,” and had to observe a different set of rules to those obtaining in its off-duty periods. It had to learn, for instance, that when “on duty” it was “bigger” than when off duty. In other words, that gaps through which it could pass as a dog, it must not pass through when wearing harness; and that it must swing wide and never pass under obstacles which would impede the passage of its human owner. Much credit must be given to the dogs that could rise beyond their own experience of size to direct their wards on these hazards. Miss Bridge’s listeners, who had probably never given a great deal of thought to what went on in the minds of dogs, began to appreciate the degree of training that had to be put in.
Early in the guide dog’s formative period, it was taught to understand traffic. This was made possible by volunteer helpers who would bring their cars to suitable spots and co-operate in the training program. Dogs were taught to check at the kerb and refuse to go forward even on command, if cars were approaching. As the training progressed, more cars were used until the dog became thoroughly traffic-conscious. At this stage it was taken to busy intersections and exercised in “natural traffic,” while being closely observed.
Miss Bridge emphasised the point that the dogs were not infallible but were capable of taking about seventy-five per cent of the responsibility so that by the exercise of the dog’s eyes and the owner’s hearing a combination was produced that closely approached that of a normal sighted person.
Before Miss Bridge’s arrival the Association had managed to acquire no more than one Labrador puppy, which was lodged at the Dogs’ Refuge Home.
With her announcement that fifty pups would be required to produce twelve trained dogs a year, the problem became crucial: the Association had not envisaged having to breed dogs themselves, but it seemed that this might have to be done. The Rotary Club of Perth promised to find at least a dozen puppies, and a country supporter, Mr. F. P. Atwell of Toodyay, also promised to help with the supply.
Miss Bridge also informed the committee that pups under the age of 10 months should not be kept in kennels. Private homes would have to be sought in which they could be brought up under normal domestic conditions, their training in this way being done by volunteers. A drive therefore would have to be made to find good homes for puppies under the scheme.
The Daily News made an appeal for homes and ran a story which was good publicity for the Association; and the Boy Scouts, too, aided in the quest. Puppies began to come in. Many kind people were found willing to take the little furry creatures, train them to house conditions and then, having let them enter their homes and their hearts, give them up again. Anyone who has ever grown to love a dog will understand the extent of service given to the guide dog movement by these many anonymous donors. Although it got off to a good start, however, the puppy boarding scheme lapsed and had to be reintroduced several years later.
By March, 1952, there were four dogs in training, six being tested, two received for testing, one reject going back to its owners, one sold, and two very tiny puppies-in-waiting. As the months went by, rejected dogs, as long as their donors were willing, were sold to aid the Association’s funds. They were not sold cheaply. Occasionally the Association had to buy suitable Border Collies and Labradors. They were therefore pleased to receive in October, 1952, the gift of three Labrador puppies from Miss H. Lascelles of South Yarra, the freight of the animals from Victoria by air being donated by Australian National Airlines. Another Labrador was donated by Mrs. L. M. Kissack in December, bringing the total number of dogs at the Training Centre to eighteen. But supply of dogs continued to be ever a crucial problem.
SHORTLY AFTER Miss Bridge’s arrival to take up her position as Director of Training, and just thirteen months after the conception of the guide dog training scheme, in January, 1952, the first Training Centre was ready to begin operations. It lay next to the Dogs’ refuge home in the bush near to the railway line at Shenton Park, midway between Perth and Fremantle. The two tram-cars that had been purchased for buildings had been set up side by side, with a paved patio between them, set with pots of colourful plants and shrubs. They had been adapted, painted and made spic-and-span by the Claremont Apex Club workers, according to their promise. The whole arrangement looked very attractive. Kennels and fenced runs for the dogs were still needed, the Association being obliged to use two kennels of the Dogs’ refuge Home. The necessary motor van had been acquired. Lynas Motors Ltd. of Perth, when first approached, had generously offered the loan of a van, but the committee was enabled to purchase one from the company after a cheque for £800 had been donated by the Lotteries Commission. The van, biscuit in colour, had a wire grid, a seat on either side, an extra front seat and two brackets on top to hold obstacles for training.
All went very well for the first few months, but then gradually a little friction began to arise in relations with the Dogs’ refuge Home because of the proximity of the two establishments. After correspondence between the committees of the two places it appeared that the Dogs” refuge Home committee wanted to build a main administrative block in a position which would obscure the Guide Dogs’ Training Centre. By May, 1952, it became obvious that the two concerns could no longer work together harmoniously, and that the Training Centre would have to move, although at that time the committee envisaged moving no further than a little way down the road. The Lands Department was asked to survey a block of land about three-quarters of an acre in extent and negotiations were set in hand with the committee of the Dogs’ refuge Home to see if they would be prepared to buy the Training Centre buildings if the concern were to move. At first the negotiations seemed successful, and the secretary was able to report to the committee of the Guide Dogs Association, at its meeting of 18th July, 1952, that the Dogs’ Refuge Home had agreed to purchase the buildings and improvements at the cost price of £1,086. Later, however, the price it actually paid was only £400.
While the negotiations with the Dogs’ Refuge Home and with the Lands Department for land were proceeding, Miss Bridge carried on with training at the Centre. The first guide dog trained in Australia was ready for its blind owner in August, 1952. It was delivered to Mrs. Elsie Mead. Mrs. Mead has set down in print in a small booklet, published in September, 1958, called The Path[inder: A Tribute to the First Australian-Trained Guide Dog, her reactions to having the guide dog, Beau; and her excellent account forms a record of the effect that owning a guide dog has on a person deprived of sight. It is a sensitive yet common-sense description owing nothing to the exaggerations of fiction, and the booklet is illustrated by very good pictures.
A little over a month later Miss Ann Green received the dog, Terry. Terry was a cross-bred Border Collie, and Beau a Kelpie-Fox Terrier cross; both, perhaps, the exceptions that proved the rule that Labradors were best. Mongrels are usually very intelligent, and Beau seems to have been not only extremely intelligent but also hardy and long-lived. At the date of writing, he is still alive: one looks at him in his comfortable retirement with the respect that a human being of notable attainments commands.
Both Mrs. Mead and Miss Green showed their gratitude for their dogs by handsome gifts of cutlery and china to the Training Centre. Guide dogs were supplied free of charge to suitable applicants but were to remain the property of the Centre throughout their lives. They could be recalled if not receiving proper attention, and great care was exercised in ehoosing the recipients, who were required to sign an agreement undertaking to keep the dog in good condition, not to lend it to other persons, not to breed from it and to observe various other conditions.
Before being allotted a guide dog, a blind person had to undergo a month’s training at the Centre. This included two daily walks with the dog, lessons in grooming, feeding and general care. The dog was in continuous company with the person, and during this period the dog’s affection transferred from the trainer to its new owner. Every effort was made to select people and dogs whose temperaments would blend harmoniously.
The necessity for funds to provide for the running of the scheme, not to mention financing the erection of another Training Centre when the land for one had been found, now became urgent. Committee meetings of the later part of 1952 were all geared to fund-raising, and the forthcoming street appeal. As early as October, 1951, the Guide Dogs committee had applied to the Chief Secretary’s Department for permission to hold a street appeal. They were allotted the date of 31st October, 1952. It was the custom in Perth for two charitable organisations to hold their appeal on the same day; and to the committee’s dismay they found that, by some foolish reasoning of bureaucracy, the Guide Dogs for the Blind Appeal had been coupled with that of the Institute for the Blind. This pleased neither organisation, for obviously both appeals would draw on the sympathies of the same section of the population: to the detriment of both causes. The chairman was deputed to try to have the date changed, and it was finally set at 16th January, 1953. This time the Association was paired with the Australian Legion of Ex-Service Men and Women.
It had been decided, for continuous fund-raising apart from the street appeal, to use house-to-house collectors, and to award them a ten per cent commission of their total takings. Four months later this commission was increased to twenty per cent, and the Association had a small band of willing workers at this job.
For the street appeal, two sub-committees were set up–one to deal with the mechanics of the appeal, consisting of Mrs. Gibbon, Miss Bridge, Mr. O’Neill and Mr. Keall; and the other, with Messrs. J. A. Dimmitt, Clarkson, Cook and R. Dimmitt (the President’s son, who now represented the Claremont Apex Club on the committee) to organise visits to commercial houses and factories, to inform and interest them in the guide dog movement with the hope that large or continuing donations would be made. Special letters were sent out to wool brokers, architects, builders and others, introducing Mr. Cook, who was to call on them with his dog, Dreena. Thirty thousand buttons for the street appeal were ordered from Melbourne. Collection boxes had been placed on the counters of many different shops and offices, both in the city and the suburbs. Two films, Eyes for the Blind and Count on Me, were shown at the Shell Theatrette, more for publicity and in an attempt to interest representative people than to raise funds, the evening only bringing in about £20. Later, the film Eyes for the Blind was shown at the Mayfair Newsreel Theatre in the centre of the city, by the courtesy of the Manager, Mr. C. J. Moss, as publicity for the street appeal.
When it finally took place, the first street appeal for the Guide Dogs for the Blind was a great success. It brought in over £1,580. Approximately 25,000 buttons had been sold and a donation of £58 from A. T. Brine and Son had been received to place against their cost of £155.
The committee’s finances were now in quite a healthy state. The Association was able to repay a loan of £100 made to it by Mr. S. Clarkson for preliminary expenses for the street appeal, and to refund to Miss Bridge the sum of £64 to reimburse her for forfeiture of her assisted passage from England to New Zealand. Her fare from New Zealand to Western Australia had already been paid by the Association.
THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING for the year ending 1952 was held at the home of Mr. G. Keall on 10th February, 1953. The President, the Honourable J. A. Dimmitt, had just been appointed Agent-General for Western Australia, so his office fell vacant. Mr. S. Clarkson was elected to it. All members of the committee were re-elected, and Mr. Sydney Congdon, who had been of great help in organising the street appeal and attendant publicity, was asked to join the committee. He was appointed Public Relations Officer and Chairman of the Appeals Committee. The Secretary and Treasurer, Mrs. C. Gibbon, asked to be relieved of her duties for personal reasons. Mr. O’Neill was elected Treasurer and replaced Mr. J. A. Dimmitt as a Trustee of the Association, while the question of a Secretary was left in abeyance for a time. Mrs. Gibbon fortunately was able to resume her secretaryship in the following year. Everything seemed to be progressing most satisfactorily, and the committee felt rewarded for the efforts made and the results gained in so short a time. It was felt that public interest and confidence had been aroused and could be counted on to continue. This fact was most stimulating to the committee for it confirmed them in their belief that, in commencing the Guide Dog Training Scheme, they had struck a helpful blow for a quiet and deserving portion of the community.
The Association was prepared to face the year 1953 with equanimity, and was therefore not prepared for the shock it received at the meeting of 20th March, 1953, which was held at Mr. Keall’s office in the city. The subject of the new block of land for a Training Centre was brought up for discussion. Some months previously, when it had been decided to move from the vicinity of the Dogs’ Refuge Home, the Lands Department had granted two blocks, Swan Location 2955 and Swan Location 5414, neither of which was considered suitable in the opinion of the Association’s Honorary Architect, Mr. R. Summerhayes.
Yet something had to be done. Miss Bridge was working under adverse conditions, and the committee felt that the building of a new centre must be expedited. The public support so far gained encouraged them to consider a
sizeable building on an adequate amount of land. Miss Bridge, who had attended the meeting to give her report on the dogs then being trained, was asked to speak on the matter of the proposed new centre.
Somewhat to the committee’s consternation, she spoke in a way they had not expected to hear. She said that she understood there was a movement in Victoria to establish a Guide Dog Training Centre there. The German Shepherd Dog Club had acquired a block of land and were considering getting a qualified trainer from America. She expressed concern regarding the future of the Western Australian Association if any of the other States succeeded in getting established, as she thought there was not scope for more than one organisation in Australia. There were not sufficient applicants for the guide dogs. She pointed out the difficulties of catering for the whole of Australia from this State, having particular regard to the after-care of dogs sent elsewhere. In her opinion, she said, Australia would be better served by a training centre in one of the more largely populated States, and she would advise the committee not to establish anything of a permanent nature here.
Although as a newcomer she could not know it, to the committee it was the old story of Western Australia being too far away from the main centres of population. It meant that there were too few people of means to support worthy causes, and too few people able to give voluntary work; and that too many blind people of small means from other States would not be able to make the journey for training with the dogs.
This was a blow they had not anticipated; but what the committee had worked to initiate, they wished to keep. Mr. Keall, in reply to Miss Bridge, stated that the movement to train guide dogs for the blind had started here, had now become established in the public confidence and he saw no reason why the thing should fold up. The difficulties mentioned by Miss Bridge had been discussed by the committee, and he thought they could be overcome. Tactfully, he said he realised that she had been working against great odds in commencing the project, but he thought matters would improve with the building of a new centre.
Arnold Cook supported Mr. Keall. He mentioned correspondence he had had with interested people in New South Wales, which indicated little response to the idea of a training centre there. He thought the Western Australian plans should be proceeded with. So did Mr. O’Neill, who remarked that more applications for guide dogs would come in as people saw more and more of them in use in the streets.
Mr. Congdon put the direct question to Miss Bridge: did she wish to stay on in this State or did she wish to seek a job elsewhere? She replied that she had no intention of leaving while the committee was prepared to carry on.
The meeting resolved to advertise for a block of land from two to five acres in extent, not more than eight miles from the Central Post Office. Mr. Congdon reported that he had already had the offer of a house and land at Belmont-about the requisite number of miles from the centre of the city. It was decided to inspect the property.
The following month’s meeting on 22nd April reported that this property appeared quite suitable, even raising enthusiasm in the Honorary Architect. The price of the property was £1850. A deposit of £50 had been paid immediately, and arrangements had been made with the Bank of New South Wales to finance the Association with a loan of £1,000. The committee empowered Mr. Keall to contact the solicitor of the Dogs’ Refuge Home to give them the first offer of buying the set-up at Shenton Park, As it turned out, the highest offer the Dogs’ Refuge Home now felt they could give was £400.
As soon as the Belmont property had been acquired, the building of kennels began, but did not progress very fast on account of bad winter weather, six roomy kennels of concrete brick with asbestos roofing were erected, each with a concrete yard enclosed by link mesh netting. Adjoining the kennels was a large concrete exercise yard surrounded by netting. Two hundred feet of picket fencing had to be done, and electric lighting put into the kennels. Fly-wiring was required for the house. On the credit side, the Belmont Park Board agreed not to levy rates on the property and to give twelve registration discs for dogs per annum free of charge. Shortly after this, Mr. John Stokes joined the committee as the representative of the Claremont Apex Club, and this very active organisation became responsible for erecting the necessary kennels and runs for dogs.
More staff was now needed. Two helpers of twenty and twenty-two years of age were put on trial for a month, and were to receive £4 per week and board. Miss Bridge’s salary was raised to £8.50 per week and her assistant’s to £6.10. A man was hired to attend to the hygiene of the kennels and for general maintenance. The Apex Club again gave valiant aid, this time in cleaning up the grounds. By December, 1953, all was in train for another street appeal in the following year. This time Mr. R. Dimmitt was organising the appeal and had a special Appeal Secretary in the person of Miss Ernestine Gibbon which proved to be an excellent arrangement.
It had become increasingly hard to get dogs of the right sort for training, and in October, 1953, the committee had been obliged to advertise in the Victorian Kennel Club Gazette for Labrador bitches from eight to twelve months old. Miss Bridge was to make a visit to Melbourne for the purpose of procuring dogs, and the committee agreed to an extension of time so that she could visit her parents in New Zealand. Her mission to seek dogs was publicised in Melbourne papers through the Perth Daily Ncws by articles by Mr. Congdon and Mr. Cook. She left Perth on 30th November, 1953, and returned three weeks later.
Altogether 1953 had proved to be a difficult year. The changeover from Shenton Park to Belmont Centre had been a disruption of activities and had incurred a debit of £880 in the Association’s financial standing. The committee was confident, however, that in the following year things would be better.
Most of the year 1954 was directed to the goal of opening the new Belmont Training Centre. The old house on the spot would do For the time being, but a new building that included an office, quarters or staff and visiting blind students, a dining-room and lounge would have to be built in Front of it, parallel with the road.
The kennels had been put in first, six in number at that time, after considerable delay; and owing to this and the whole business of changeover from Shenton Park to Belmont, the work of dog-training had suffered. Only one dog, Honey, was trained erly in 1953. It was resolved at the beginning of 1954 that Miss Bridge should be relieved as far as possible from the management of the Centre in order that she might concentrate her energies on training. A Miss Skinner was appointed Centre Manager. Miss Bridge reported that under these conditions she would be able to do more walking of dogs than ever before. Twenty-eight dogs were in kennels in March, 1954.
However, Miss Skinner did not remain long. Housekeepers came and went. It was hard to get, and keep, domestic staff. Miss Bridge was performing so many tasks, and trying to devote as much time as the day would hold to dog training, that her health began to suffer.
By the middle of the year the President, Mr. Clarkson, decided to make a trip to England and the Continent, in the course of which he would investigate and observe guide dog training methods and centres. He hoped, with the ull concurrence of the committee, to be able to find a trainer who could be attracted to Western Australia, for it was felt that a second qualified trainer at Belmont would make a great difference.
While he was away Miss Bridge, at his request, wrote to a Mr. S. H. Challis of New Zealand to ask if he would be interested in coming to work in Western Australia, and it was resolved that the Secretary should also write, acquainting Mr. Challis with all particulars regarding the position. By December Mr. Challis had replied, accepting the position at the Centre from the commencement of 1955 at a salary of £12.66 a week. Miss Bridge’s salary was raised to £10 a week. Mr. Challis was to be known as Kennels Manager, while Miss Bridge still remained as Director of Training. The position for the following year looked fairly hopeful.
The main event of 1954 was the official opening of the Belmont Guide Dog Training Centre on 10th October by the honourable Lady Gairdner, wife of the Governor of Western Australia. It was a most felicitous occasion, made happier for the committee by the promise of financial assistance from the Western Australian Government given by the Honourable J. A. Tonkin. Minister for Works and Water Supplies, who represented the Premier, the Honourable A. R. G. Itawke, at the function. A deputation to wait on the Premier was to be arranged.
Two decisions of importance to the training scheme were made in 1954. One was the move to admit the general public to membership of the Association now that it was fully established, resulting in the acquisition of 411 financial members before the end of the year. The other was the formation of a Women’s Auxiliary.
Sooner or later any organisation discovers that, while men are prepared to give their services on committees to deal with matters of policy, administration and finance, together with attendant publicity and fund-raising on a large scale, when it comes down to the actual getting of small but continuous and reliable sums of money and decisions on the detailed and practical scale, it is the women of the community who will take this on and inevitably make a success of it. In its first stages, any women’s auxiliary is thought to exist for the purpose of providing supper at meetings and to keep the female of the species occupied and interested. Then it transpires that while the men indulge in large-scale propositions, the ladies have been giving bridge parties, running balls and hat parades and other social activities, and are suddenly discovered to be able to provide refrigerators, electric stoves, furnishings, odd necessities and amenities out of current funds of actual cash, not promises. Such was the experience of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
Well before he left for England, the President, Mr. Clarkson, put forward the idea of forming a Women’s Auxiliary at the Annual Meeting on 21st March, 1954, and it was resolved that he should approach Mrs. G. Keall, who with several other ladies had been assiduous in fund-raising from the beginning of the enterprise. By July, Mrs. Keall was empowered to form such an Auxiliary and was given an advance of £10 to cover formation expenses. She was provided with a list of current women members, and it was arranged that a representative of the Women’s Auxiliary was to sit on the general committee of the Association.
The meeting to form the Auxiliary was held at the Savoy Hotel on 15th September, 1954. Mrs. G. Keall was elected President, and Mrs. W. Itawkins, Honorary Secretary and Treasurer. The function of the Women’s Auxiliary was stated to be: to assist Miss Bridge and make the work of Trainer and staff easier by looking after the personal side of the establishment, providing amenities both for staff and blind people residing at the Centre. To get funds, a special committee to run a jumble sale was appointed. A roster of members willing to drive cars as needed during the training of dogs was arranged. The House Management committee rapidly got to work on obtaining donations of furniture for the Centre, and various fund-raising ventures were soon under way.
The Association’s affairs were now in very good order. The street appeal for the year had brought in a total of £1,254.15. Much publicity was being gained, Mr. Congdon continuing his good work, and Mr. J. A. Mallett, a well-known writer on sheep-dogs, being invited to join the committee. Mr. Mallett proved to be most active in writing articles and making broadcasts. When it was decided to publisise the work of the Association by means of a brochure, Mr. Mallett, Mr. Congdon and Mr. Keall composed a special sub-committee to deal with this. An attractive small brochure was produced, simply titled Guide Dogs for the Blind: An Explanation of a Great Humanitarian Movement, which contained much information about the Association, the guide dogs, owners already in possession of a dog, the future aims for the Centre and, at the back, forms of application for membership, and forms of bequest. 10,000 of these brochures were distributed by August, 1954, and the committee approved of printing a further 10,000. Dix Pty. Ltd. supplied the first lot under cost and donated a further final 500 free. Printing and postage cost £1,080, but the committee was well aware of the adage, ‘to get money it is necessary to spend money,” and were gratified to find that the brochure appeal brought in £3,772. The brochures were distributed free, so this handsome result came from donations.
All in all, from the financial aspect 1954 had been a most successful year. The brochure had resulted in the sum of £3,772; collections, £258; dog sales, £13; wishing-well in King’s Park, £70; and sundries, £6. The Association was able to pay off outstanding accounts and also its overdraft at the bank, and have a credit there of £86.
Two dogs were trained in this year, for Mr. W. Clitheroe of Como; and Gillian, for Mrs. P. Bennett of Tuart Hill.
ON 8TH FEBRUARY, 1955, the new Kennels Manager, Mr. S. H. Challis, who had been approached at the end of the previous year, arrived from New Zealand with his wife and two children. They were met by Mr. and Mrs. Cook and Miss Bridge. At a committee meeting later in the month Miss Bridge reported that as she herself could not do training with more than ten dogs per day, it was arranged that Mr. Challis and the kennel maid, Wendy Marriner, who had joined the staff towards the end of 1954 and with whose work Miss Bridge was very pleased, should take the puppies out for training. She pressed for the acquisition of a second motor van, perhaps a second-hand one. It was particularly needed for veterinary work and for picking up consignments of meat. She stated rather emphatically she considered it far more important than new buildings because it contributed more to the training and welfare of dogs, the main object of the movement as far as she was concerned.
The committee, however, while it recognised her whole-heartedness for the cause, knew it had to plan for the new building and conserve its funds as much as possible. It resolved to spend up to £450 on a second-hand van, though this allotment was changed to £595 when Winterbottom Motors generously offered a new Austin A30 at that price, the landed cost. Miss Bridge duly acquired her second van, equipped with a grill at the back of the seats, rubber floor covering and racks on the roof for carrying the obstacles needed in training.
The offer by the Deputy Premier, the Honourable J. A. Tonkin, of some Government aid, made at the opening of the Belmont Centre, had not been forgotten. A deputation to the Premier was organised to take place after the Annual Balance Sheet had been drawn up and after the Honorary Architect, Mr. Summerhayes, had provided drawings of the proposed new building, estimated to cost about £4,600. The Premier, the Honourable A. R. G. Hawke, received them on 16th March at 11.00 a.m. The Honourable J. Hegney, M.L.A., introduced the members of the deputation–the President (now Mr. Cook), Mr. KeaI1 and Mr. O’NeilI. On the principle of “nothing venture, nothing win,” the deputation asked for a straight-out grant to cover the cost of the new building, and for an annual subsidy. The Premier said that he thought the Government would be prepared to subsidise the Association’s work to some extent, but that it would not be willing to subsidise the training of dogs for persons not resident in this State.
A committee meeting later in March decided as a matter of policy, that the training of dogs for persons from another State must be financed by that State. The amount of £350 was estimated to cover the cost of training, the dog itself being provided freely but remaining the property of the Association. Return air fare and expenses while in Western Australia would require a further £150. It was suggested that Apex Clubs throughout Australia might raise the necessary money for prospective owners.
By April, the committee received word that the Government would make a grant of £1,000 assistance towards the new building, and an annual grant of £500 to the Association. While not as much as they had optimistically asked for, the Association was grateful for this help. It was resolved that the £1,000 given by the Government to be made a separate ledger account called “Building Fund.”
This nucleus gave impetus to a drive for funds for building. Mr. Congdon suggested that the Speedway might be approached to have a “tarpaulin muster” in aid of guide dogs. He was authorised to approach the right quarter and did so, only to report that the Speedway had finished for the time being, but that he was to get in touch again later in the season. A fete in the Supreme Court Gardens was suggested, and a concert in the Orchestral Shell. Mr. Cong- don, always fertile with ideas, then had the notion of a Find the Ball competition. Asking around, he contacted the Lotteries Commission, and then Mr. Carruthers of the Western Mail. This weekly journal, a subsidiary of the West Australian, the only morning newspaper of the State, stated that it was prepared to run the contest without any cost to the Association. A subcommittee of Mr. Congdon, Mr. Mallett and Mr. Keall was formed to deal with this competition. Permission was granted by the Lotteries Commission to hold it; and, even better, interest having been aroused in members of the Commission, they visited the Belmont Training Centre and as a result, the Lotteries Commission decided to make a grant of £1,000 towards the building fund.
The Western Mail went ahead with running the Find the Ball competition, and printed 200,000 leaflets. These were distributed at football matchs by boys of the Christian Brothers Colleges. (It might here be remarked that throughout the whole career of the Guide Dogs Association the boys of various schools, particularly the Christian Brothers, inspired by the altruistic motive, had been active to help the Association in many ways.).
The first prize of the Find the Ball competition was to be an Austin A50 motor car, which Winterbottom Motors had let the Association have at cost price. The competition was held throughout the month of July. The total result was £2,400. Mr. Congdon, a perfectionist, was not really satisfied with the result, for expenses included the cost of the Austin A50 prize, heavy postage, etc. The committee, however, was most gratified to receive a cheque for £1,000 to add to its building fund.
Other fund-raising ventures in 1955, apart from the continuous collecting boxes and appeals for donations, were: a street appeal in the year which resulted in the sum of £1,541.49 being collected, and a Christmas raffle of 3,000 tickets at 1/- each for a prize of a Christmas tree with gifts attached, all donated by various business houses. The preparation of a second brochure appeal was also set in hand.
Brochures were a less immediate but more enduring approach for funds. The first one had been very successful. On the second one, Miss Ernestine Gibbon gave valiant voluntary service typing 200,000 envelopes, as well as working at the same time on the Find the Ball competition. The committee decided to employ her at a weekly salary of £12 her title to be Assistant Secretary, her mother, Mrs. C. Gibbon, still being Honorary Secretary.
At the Belmont Centre, the old house on the lot had further improvements made to it, in the shape of an enclosed verandah, new lavatories, and a meat room, fly windows and doors; while the Women’s Auxiliary contributed various additions to the furnishings, a refrigerator and electric stove for the kitchen, and a large second-hand refrigerator for the meat room, supplied at the reasonable price of £90 by A. J. Baker and Sons. The Challises lived in this house, Miss Wendy Marriner, the kennel maid, occupying a room on the verandah. Miss Bridge lived in her own caravan in the grounds.
The need for a hospital kennel had been stressed by Miss Bridge, so a temporary one was contrived from a motor case on cement blocks, heated by a radiator.
This year at the Centre there was a monthly average of twenty-six dogs in kennels, training, testing, and as puppies. Miss Bridge seemed fairly satisfied with this number, stating that she could train twelve dogs a year if she had only training to do.
She had reason to feel proud of her achievement for this year, four Western Australians being equipped for a better deal in life with their guide dogs. By Miss Bridge’s efforts over the twelve months, Tanga was trained for Mr. Cecil Mead;* Betsy for Mrs. N. Fleeker; Cleo for Miss H. Sehell; and Leckie for Miss J. Lowensohn. In April of this year, a Register of Trained Dogs was commenced, their names and those of the blind students to whom they had been awarded, being recorded. (See Appendix). Cecil and Elsie Mead were then the only known blind husband and wife guide dog owners.
In May, a matter came up which intensified the committee’s desire to press on with the new building. The first blind person from the Eastern States was ready to come at once to do his training with a guide dog. This was Doug Adams of Inverell, New South Wales. But where was he to stay? Out-of-town, or country students from Western Australia had so far been able to stay with relatives in the city and had been no problem. This one had to be solved, if the committee’s aim was to be genuine. Mr. Congdon came to the rescue by offering to lend his caravan for Mr. Adams’s accommodation at the Centre.
Doug Adams duly arrived by air on 20th June, bringing with him a letter from Mr. Guy Smith of Inverell, who was solicitor for the “Blind Doug Adams Appeal” there. The letter contained a cheque for £100 towards Adam’s expenses in Western Australia. As it proved, it was more than adequate. Mrs. Challis was to look after Adams’s board, for £2.10 per week, which Adams thought was not enough. The Women’s Auxiliary was authorised to look into the matter and decided that £4.40 should be charged. Board was later fixed at £3, covering food and service. Mrs. Samphier, a Western Australian guide dog owner, lent a talking-book and a heater for Adams’s caravan.
At this stage, two other applications from New South Wales were received. Doug Adams successfully completed his training with Miss Bridge in a little over six weeks, and on 29th August left to return to Inverell with his dog, Zealie. The captain of the aircraft was an Inverell man and made Adams feel that he was the star passenger on that flight. Zealie may not have been so happy. From January of this year, inquiries had been going on regarding the air travel of dogs, both to and from Western Australia. Australian National Airways considered that they should travel in suitable crates, 3 x 2 x 1 feet, which should be collapsible. This was fair enough for dogs travelling unaccompanied, but the case of a dog travelling with a blind person was different. Letters were sent to both of the interstate airlines asking that a guide dog be permitted to travel in the same compartment as the blind owner, sitting on the floor beside him. A reply from Trans Australia Airlines said that they regretted this would be contrary to the Air Navigation Regulations of the Commonwealth Department of Civil Aviation.
It took some time for Government departments to overcome the idea that guide dogs were just dogs, and to comprehend that after their training they had become, as it were, an appendage of their blind owners and should not be separated from them. The question had arisen even for short journeys by bus and tram, and the matter had been taken up with the Minister for Transport in the State Government, with the result that by the next year guide dogs were permitted to travel by Government trains, trams and trolley buses. Private bus lines were also successfully approached, and taxi drivers accepted guide dogs as passengers.
But the air was still closed to them. Representations to the Department of Civil Aviation about air travel for guide dogs with owners continued over the next few years, till at length at the beginning of February, 1960, the Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Shane Paltridge, granted permission for dog and owner to travel together, subject to certain conditions, i.e., the dog was to be muzzled and was to be seated on a hygienic absorbent mat.
While Mr. Sam Clarkson was abroad during this year, 1955, he visited guide dog centres on the Continent, in England and in America. He sent back reports on Leamington Spa and Exeter in England, and on The Seeing Eye, Morris- town, U.S.A. He also sent home 500 feet of sound film, 16mm. entitled That They May See, about the Leader Dogs, Michigan. As early as February, 1955, he had been on the trail of an interested trainer in England, and asked for the backing of the committee if he should secure him. This trainer was Mr. J. K. Holdsworth; and from Mr. Clarkson’s reports, he was the only suitable person interested in coming to Australia. The committee decided to approach him by letter. As it was felt that security of residence would be an added attraction, it was decided to make an appeal to the State Housing Commission for a rental house for Mr. Holdsworth. By 23rd June Mr. Holdsworth had replied accepting the position offered at a salary of £700 per annum. The State Housing Commission agreed to let the Association have a rental house for him, and the President performed the necessary nomination of him as an immigrant, while Mr. Keall drew up a legal document to cover his employment, which was sent forward for his signature. On 1st September the committee heard he had signed the agreement and was awaiting a sailing date which the Agent-General in London, Mr. Dimmitt, former President of the Association, was arranging for him. Soon Holdsworth wrote to say he would be arriving by the Stratheden on 12th November. Accordingly, transport of his furniture was arranged and also accommodation for himself and his wife immediately on arrival so that they could look over the State Commission house before they moved in. Further adiustments at the Belmont Centre were deferred until after his arrival.
The committee meeting of 27th October resolved that his salary should be not £700 but £728 per annum, or £14 per week.
The committee was now up against something of a problem. Miss Bridge, owing to the long strain of overwork in adverse conditions, was very nervy and run-down. Obviously she needed a holiday, none having been taken since 1953. She had spoken to Mr. Clarkson, before his departure, about feeling “‘her advanced years” and talked of retirement. The committee hoped that by offering her a good holiday on full pay, she might return refreshed and feel able to continue, with the help of the new trainer engaged.
About Christmas-time, therefore, Miss Bridge began a six-week holiday. On coming back, however, she felt she would be better with a change of occupation. She decided to return to secretarial work, which she secured with a local firm.
Mr. Holdsworth and his wife, who arrived as scheduled on 12th November, met the committee at a party held at the home of the Secretary, Mrs. C. Gibbon, as always, generous with her hospitality to the Association. Holdsworth, as the West Australian noted on Monday, 14th November, was a young former member of the Royal Navy who had begun his training with guide dogs at Leamington Spa about six years previously under Captain Liakoff himself. Shortly after his arrival in Perth, Holdsworth gave a radio broadcast about guide dog training during which he referred to his own apprenticeship, and said: The course for apprentices is not an easy one and many who start off fail ultimately to qualify as guide dog trainers. Apprentices are usually appointed between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-seven, when they are considered to have developed a reasonably mature outlook; but much of the wastage in apprentice trainers is due to the long and irregular hours of work, the demanding conditions and the nervous strain involved. It takes from two to four years to qualify as a guide dog trainer, as it is mainly a matter of experience in being able to handle the problems brought about by these different temperaments. Throughout an apprenticeship course there are examinations on the theoretical side of training, including animal psychology–because we can learn a great deal from the psychology of animals other than the dog.
On the practical side, before qualification the apprentice must show himself capable of training a reasonable number of successful man-dog pairs. Even then his training is not completed, and, in fact, is never completed, because we are always learning something new as each dog we handle and each person we meet shows differing temperamental attitudes.
Dogs for this work are tested at the age of twelve months for their physical and temperamental characteristics… From the temperamental point of view, dogs are checked on some twelve temperamental sections, including body and hearing sensitivity, degree of nervousness or sound-shyness, their ability to concentrate, the amount of suspicion and to what that suspicion might be related, the degree of distraction and aggression, their initiative and, perhaps most important, the degree of villingness to work. Only one in four dogs ultimately qualifies as a guide dog. A dog failing in any one of these sections on which they are tested must be discarded, as in this work there can be nothing left to chance.
On 1st December Mr. Holdsworth attended his first committee meeting of the Association. He had already made an inspection of the Belmont Centre and had set down a number of suggestions for improvements among which was that he thought priority of attention should be given to finding further apprentice trainers. He especially commended Wendy Marriner who, though young, was very keen and handled dogs well because she knew when to be firm and when to be soft. He also made a point about dog supply and dog breeding. The only solution to the problem of providing sufficient puppies was to see that they were not the care and responsibility of the Centre until they were of an age for training, and this meant that they should be boarded out till that time. A properly functioning puppy boarding scheme was a necessity. He was told about the earlier puppy boarding scheme. It was then suggested that he and the Assistant Secretary might work out a new scheme.
THE NEW Director of Training lost no time in settling to work at the Centre. At the February meeting of the committee, he was full of ideas and suggestions. He stated that he had immediately put a card index system for dogs into operation, in his opinion the staff at the Centre should consist of two trainers, two kennel maids, one housekeeper or married couple. The kennel maids would be required to do prelininary walking with the dogs and would cope with a kennel of not more than twenty-five dogs.
He recommended improvements in the design for the second set of kennels, including a suggestion which struck at the very root of Australian notions. This was about picket fences, that sine qua non of Australian sub-dividing. “Open picket fences are not suitable,” he said, “because the dogs see and bark at each other through the gaps. And this all leads to an increase of suspicion in the dog, to increased barking, and finally, to a definite mental deterioration.”
The committee, like everyone else, had heard about dogs going mad but had vaguely thought of it as a disease. The idea that dogs, like humans, could become neurotic to the point of mental disability was a new one.
Mr. Holdsworth’s other dislike for picket fences was a practical one easily understood. He said they were not strong enough. They tended to lean and shift in the sand, especially when leapt upon by the dogs. Instead he recommended concrete partitions five feet high topped with a further two feet of cyclone wiring.
The main part of his remarks, however, was devoted to the subject of dog intake. He stated that to achieve an output of twelve dogs a year, fifty to sixty dogs of sound temperament about the age of twelve months were needed. The most economical way to get these was by breeding; but it was quite impracticable to rear puppies in the kennels. They could not be given sufficient human attention or be introduced to the sounds and sights of the outside world without employing a huge staff. The only solution was the puppy boarding scheme, to the organisation of which he had given much thought.
At his request, a press campaign for homes for puppies was promptly instituted, and resulted in sixty applications for puppies being made. All applicants had to be visited to ascertain whether they were suitable people for rearing puppies, with the right sort of premises, fenced, and not too near main roads. They also had to be visited thereafter at least once a month to inquire into conditions. Mrs. Holdsworth had volunteered to do this visiting, if the Women’s Auxiliary could provide transport. It could, and did. Later, visiting was replaced by a monthly questionnaire posted to the various homes.
Mr. Holdsworth had also prepared a booklet containing instructions on feeding, house training, leash training and general welfare. The committee authorised him to use his own discretion as to payment for boarding pups. He remarked that the starting of this scheme had meant a great deal of work but it should produce good results. It had already produced the result of cutting the meat bill at the Centre by £5 per week.
Later in the year the Association was to look into the subject of allowing Alsatian dogs to be bred in Western Australia. State laws forbade the keeping of Alsatian dogs unless sterilised, because of the danger in country areas of their inter-breeding with wild dogs and causing a hazard to sheep. The Deputy Premier, the Honourable J. A. Tonkin, was interviewed regarding the matter. Mr. Tonkin said he thought there was little chance of this being allowed unless the Association claimed that their work would be impeded if these dogs were not used. After discussion the Association decided not to proceed with the move to use Alsatians.
By 21st March, 1956, the President was able to tell the Annual General Meeting of the Association that the new building at Belmont had been commenced. The estimated cost was about £4,600, he said, plus the furnishing and equipping of the building. The Association had £3,000 in its Building Fund but would have to find about £2,000 in the forthcoming year.
In July Mr. Holdsworth, who had been making a written monthly report to the committee, included in it the suggestion that blind people should pay a nominal fee for their dogs instead of receiving them free, as had been the policy of the Association. This, he said, would ensure complete independence for them: at present they tended to have a feeling of obligation and subservience to the Association, which was a direct negation of the aims of the guide dog movement. His suggestion was pointed up by the case of the guide dog, Honey.
Early in 1956 Mrs. Samphier of Mt. Lawley, who had received Honey in 1953, reported that the dog was ill with what appeared to be paralysis of the hind legs. As she remarked later, nothing immediately came of her report. In July the matter reached the committee, and it was resolved that the President, Mr. Clarkson and Mr. Holdsworth visit Mrs. Samphier and get her to agree to having Honey put down. Mrs. Samphier, however, a spirited woman, did not agree. She said she was having Honey treated by a chiropractor. At the committee meeting on the subject, Mr. Cook was of the opinion that Honey should at once be removed to the Centre, and by virtue of the authority of the committee this was done, Mrs. Samphier being given assurance that the dog would receive all medical attention possible. She was very upset at the summary manner of taking away her dog, and protested vigorously in a rather pathetic letter to the President. As a result, Honey, who was beginning to respond to treatment, was returned to her to keep as a pet, Mrs. Samphier signing an agreement to undertake all responsibility for the dog. A little later she acquired a second guide dog, Teddy.
The affair of Honey showed that there were two attitudes towards guide dogs on the part of the blind: there were those who regarded them simply as a piece of property, an almost mechanical means of locomotion; and those who regarded them more emotionally as beings with their own right of life, to whom they owed affection and gratitude.
The question of making a charge for dogs was to be examined in the following year; but it would appear that no change was made in policy, for it was to come up again much later still.
In the latter half of 1956 the erection of the new building at the Belmont Centre was completed. Made of pale pinkish brick, it comprised a lounge and dining-room, and living quarters for four blind students when they came to train with their dogs. There was also office accommodation for the staff. Two new concrete-based exercise yards essential for the efficient training of dogs were completed and a third was nearing completion. They were to be surrounded by a four foot high ti-tree hedge. The Apex Club of Claremont had been largely responsible for the work, thereby saving the Association several hundred pounds. Mr. J. Higgins, a member of the committee, had also been most helpful. An attractive garden layout had been planned by Mrs. Gresley Clarkson, which provided for simulated road crossings and kerbs that would be useful to blind students undergoing instruction. Extra land had been added to the Association’s holding by the generosity of Mrs. S. Glarkson, Higgins and Keall, who purchased the adjoining block for £550 to hold until the Association could afford to buy it from them.
Much of the furnishings for the rooms in the new building was provided by the Women’s Auxiliary, and they continued to add improvements throughout the following year.
By the end of the year, twenty-one dogs were in kennels at Belmont, and sixty puppies were boarded out. Four guide dogs had been trained and delivered, two being replacements to owners Samphier and Green, and the other two going to Mrs. F. Mill of Rivervale and Mr. A. W. Clowes of Shenton Park. The staff at the Centre included a new housekeeper, Mrs. B. Furlonger, replaced a pensioner couple, and who was to give sterling work, a new kennel maid, Miss P. Briggs, replacing Wendy Marriner who had resigned in October feeling she could not continue without Miss Bridge, and several transitory members. Early in the year inquiries had been received from England from a fully qualified trainer from Leamington Spa, Mr. Eric Hatchley. Mr. Hatchley had served for two years with the R.A.F. and on leaving the service had decided to do guide dog training work. He had been highly recommended by Mr. Holdsworth, and negotiations ensued which resulted in Mr. Hatchley being engaged. He and his wife left England on 24th December.
While the Belmont Centre was thus running smoothly and efficiently during 1956, a development occurred which had an enduring effect on the Guide Dogs Association and on the Belmont Centre, though this was not foreseen at the time.
At the beginning of the year, and not long after his arrival, Mr. Holdsworth had made a formal report to the committee on his appraisal of the Belmont Centre. At the end of this report, in a small paragraph headed “Ultimate Output,” he raised a point that was to have important consequences.
He had apparently been looking to the future and said that as far as he could ascertain, an output of twelve to fifteen trained dogs per year would supply the needs of the whole of Australia. The Belmont Centre could produce these. On present showing, no more than four dogs per year were needed locally. Most of the dogs, trained, therefore, could go to the Eastern States, where there was greater density of population and where more blind persons might be expected to want dogs.
In saying this Holdsworth was, in effect, only giving voice to ideas which Miss Bridge had put forward in 1953; but by now, three years later, there were more facts and figures to support them. Mr. Holdsworth went on to suggest that perhaps a small centre might be set up in Melbourne to receive and test suitable dogs to transmit to Perth for training, and to which trained dogs from Perth might be sent to do training with blind students. Naturally it would be necessary to retain complete control of any such new enterprise from the Belmont Centre.
The committee reluctantly acknowledged that perhaps Mr. Holdsworth’s idea was soundly based, and in May a sub-committee consisting of Mrs. Keall, Holdsworth and Stokes was set up to examine the question of Eastern States development. By June the sub-committee produced a plan of the scheme as they envisaged it:
- There should be an Eastern States distribution centre, preferably in Melbourne, later perhaps to be extended to Sydney and Brisbane.
- Fully trained dogs which were required would travel from Perth to Melbourne accompanied by the Director, in batches of four or six, according to circumstances.
- On arrival, kennel accommodation for from three to six dogs would be required at some convenient point, after which the running-in of the dogs with their new blind owners would commence. The usual period needed for this was four to five weeks. Transport would be required. In the case of public transport being used, experience in Western Australia had shown that representation to the proper transport authorities brought special dispensation to guide dogs with their owners, usually in the form of a pass to be carried. Such representations therefore, would have to be made.
- Selection of students would also have to be made, and this required care. The age limits set were between the years of fourteen to fifty, and the disposition of the applicant had also to be considered.
- A last consideration, but not the least important, was that finance would have to be based on public support, and this, as the Perth committee well knew, depended on a strong citizens’ committee, and the best of publicity continuously active.
On having the scheme submitted to it, the June committee meeting of the Association decided that its President, Mr. Clarkson, who was going to Melbourne within the week, should try to establish whether a committee which had been formed in Melbourne in 1953 to commence a guide dog movement was still in existence and would co-operate with the Western Australian Association. Mr. Stokes, the representative of the Claremont Apex Club, was directed to inform the Apex Club of Melbourne of Mr. Clarkson’s visit.
Mr. Stokes accordingly wrote on 11th June to Mr. Gordon Duxbury, past President of the Apex Club of Melbourne, setting out for him some facts and information about the Guide Dog Training Centre established at Belmont in 1953 and its output of trained dogs, adding that it was extremely difficult to establish such a Centre because of the lack of qualified trainers. The total number of qualified trainers spread over six training centres throughout Great Britain and the United States was between thirty and forty. Not many were willing to come to Australia, as the Western Australian Association had found. Their set-up therefore, which included two trainers, was unique in the southern hemisphere and was functioning well. It was quite capable of providing guide dogs for other States and the cost of their transport was not high.
Mr. Duxbury was urged to help form a public committee affiliated with the Western Australian committee, using the remarkable resources of Apex in doing so. He was assured by Mr. Stokes that President Clarkson was a “live wire” and would be just the one to address a meeting and sell the idea successfully to Melbourne citizens.
Sam Clarkson duly made his visit to Melbourne and found that the Melbourne Guide Dogs Association which had been formed several years before had not lasted long and was now completely defunct. The Apex Club, however, was very enthusiastic about the idea of a centre subsidiary to Belmont. An appointment was made for Mr. Clarkson to meet the President of the Returned Soldiers League. It seemed from inquiry, apparently, that the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind was not opposed to the idea, as had been feared.
Mr. Clarkson returned to Perth very pleased with what appeared to have been achieved. For several months, however, nothing more eventuated, although three people from Melbourne and one from Adelaide wrote applying for dogs. The Perth committee suggested that a brochure appeal might be instituted in Melbourne, and Mr. Clarkson was authorised to telephone Melbourne to find out what was happening there. Nothing much was, as reported to the committee meeting of 4th October. However, on 31st October, Gordon Duxbury was writing to Sam Clarkson that the hold-up had been with the Victorian Minister for Health, who had taken many weeks to reply to the letter he had sent to him. Even then the Minister’s advice was that the best approach of any committee would be through the Institute for the Blind. Mr. Duxbury preferred to make a direct approach to the public for support, while endeavouring to ensure, by personal representations, that the Blind Institute was not opposed to the guide dog project. The trouble was that the Olympic Games which were to be held in Melbourne in November prevented any hope of getting together a public meeting, everything in the city being geared to the vital ten days of the Games. Mr. Duxbury hoped to call a meeting early in December, and in the meantime had commenced a series of interviews with prominent people who might help in the establishment of a committee. A letter of 10th December, however, had regretfully to inform the Perth committee that Mr. Duxbury had found most people in Melbourne needed to recover from the Games, and what with the onset of Christmas, there was no chance of a meeting in the current year. It was hoped to arrange a date for a meeting early in 1957.
With this the Perth committee had to be content, and with the fact that the Melbourne Labrador Retriever Club showed much interest in the promotion of these dogs by the use of them as guide dogs. This interest might be of future benefit. Some eight-millimetre films made by Mrs. R. Barkle of Perth, and one by Mrs. E. Gason of Perth, on the work of the Guide Dogs Association were exchanged with the Labrador Retriever Club for some of theirs.
IN THE NEW YEAR, things in Melbourne still proceeded slowly. This was the more regrettable since four guide dogs had been trained for the three Melbourne applicants (one dog a spare in case of any incompatibility). They could not be held indefinitely or they would deteriorate. The establishment of the Melbourne committee became a matter of urgency.
It was March, however, before Duxbury could report that Sir Norman Martin, a former Agent-General in London and a director in a number of Melbourne companies, would accept the Presidency of a committee. In the meanwhile, the Perth committee had deputed Mr. Keall, who was going to Melbourne on business, to contact Mr. Duxbury about the setting up of an organisation in Victoria, as the matter seemed to have come to a standstill.
The situation, as Mr. Keall saw it, was confused. Whereas the Perth committee had had it solely in mind that any Victorian organisation would be only a holding-house for trained dogs from Western Australia, the Victorian idea seemed to be that in forming an organisation they would at first receive dogs from Western Australia but would acquire property for a centre where guide dogs would eventually be trained. Mr. Duxbury had already investigated several properties with a view to purchasing one. He had been in communication with the Director of the Belmont Centre, Mr. Holdsworth. The correspondence had primarily been concerned with the three Melbourne applicants for guide dogs; but Mr. Holdsworth had not confined himself to that subject. In a letter of 10th January, 1957, he had remarked: “In my opinion there is no doubt that a permanent centre will be necessary in Melbourne in due course.., such a centre would be ideally placed to supply the needs of the whole of Australia.”.
On hearing this, Mr. Keall endeavoured to point out to Mr. Duxbury that it would be quite uneconomical to have more than one training centre in Australia. There were, at that time, only two centres in the whole of the British Isles. The cost of forming a second one in Australia would be unwarranted.
When he returned to Perth, Mr. Keall informed the committee that he felt the relationship between the Western Australian Association and the proposed Victorian Association should be clarified. If there were plans even only tentative for the establishment of a training centre in Victoria, serious consideration would have to be given to capital expenditure on the Belmont Centre and its further development. A clear statement of policy was needed.
To the Perth committee the idea of acquiring property in Victoria seemed rather premature, considering that the Melbourne committee was not yet fully constituted, and that they were not yet able to provide the finance for the three trained dogs at £500 each, required for the three Victorian applicants. It was to take several subsequent letters to remind the Melbourne committee that the Perth Association’s contract with the Western Australian State Government forbade the Belmont Centre to provide dogs for other States unless paid for by that State. However, the President wrote cordially to Sir Norman Martin offering best wishes for the formation of a citizens’ committee in Melbourne under the aegis of the Apex Club; and in so doing, he recapitulated the Western Australian plan for extending its activities to other States. This plan, he stated, was simply to set up local committees whose functions would be to:
Li>Raise the necessary funds.
- Provide facilities for the living-in of a class of three or four blind students for a period of four to six weeks, together with necessary transport.
- Invite applications, screen applicants, and submit recommendations to the Training Director.
The matter of whether or not the Victorian committee should be a subsidiary of the Western Australian Association was the subject of several discussions during March and April at a meeting between John Stokes, Vice-President of the Western Australian Association, and Gordon Duxbury, and later Sir Norman Martin. Mr. Duxbury felt that it would be possible to give an undertaking that no training would be done by Melbourne for a period of about five years, and then only by mutual agreement. It had only been talked of as a long-term project, he said. He also agreed that the Melbourne committee would guarantee the cost of the trained dogs, but said he would like to have details of how this cost was made up, as critics would have to be answered on this point.
The discussions brought forth the suggestion that there should be a coordinating council to deal with matters affecting various States. In the later meeting between Sir Norman Martin, Gordon Duxbury and John Stokes on 17th April, this body was given the name of The National Council of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (Australia). It was proposed to form this council at the end of twelve months, during which period the Victorian Council should be a subsidiary of the Western Australian Association.
Mr. Stokes followed this brief meeting in Melbourne by a visit to Ballarat, where the Easter Convention of Apex Clubs was being held. The Perth committee had asked him to suggest unofficially to Apex representatives from the various States of Australia that they raise funds in their own States to meet the cost of transporting blind persons to Western Australia so that they could obtain dogs; and also meet the cost of training those dogs. If arrangements could be made in this way, cases urgently needing dogs could be dealt with, in spite of any delay in setting up organisations in the various States.
The Annual General Meeting of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association of Western Australia, held at West Perth on 4th April, 1957, referred to the extension of the Association’s activities now taking place in Victoria. It recorded with profound regret the death in London of the foundation President, the Honourable James A. Dimmitt, and it proceeded to the election of new officers. These were: President, Mr. S. Clarkson; Vice-Presidents, Mrs. J. A. Mallett and J. S. Stokes; Secretary, Miss P. Dodd; Treasurer, Mr. C. Smedley; Commt- tee, Mrs. S. H. Congdon, J. Iliggins, I. McCall, P. J. O’Neill, Mrs. C. Gibbon, and a new member, Mr. L. P. Potter, who joined the committee in December; 1956, representing the Claremont Apex Club (G. Keall and K. Mallabone did not stand for re-election); Trustees, Mrs. A. Cook and P. J. O’Neill; Auditor, Mr. C. Newberry. The retiring President of the Women’s Auxiliary, Mrs. G. Keall, introduced the new President, Mrs. D. Lytton.
Mrs. Elsie Mead was appointed Public Relations Officer, at a weekly salary of £8 clear of tax, and it was resolved that a letter be sent to the Western Australian Government Railways asking for an all-lines pass for Mrs. Mead to facilitate the country travelling she and her guide dog Beau did in the course of her publicity work. A presentation was made to Mrs. Mead to thank her for the wonderful work she had already done. Even Mr. Holdsworth, who did not approve of guide dogs being used for public appeal work, suggested that Mrs. Mead should be appointed to deal with all public appeals where the appearance of a guide dog was considered essential.
Soon after this meeting, the question of a house for the Training Director, to be built on the block adjoining the Belmont Centre, was raised. Mr. Holds- worth, who lived at some little distance from the Centre, constantly referred to difficulties arising from the Training Director not being close to the Centre at all times. The committee, on learning that the Bank of N.S.W. would agree to finance the building, and in view of having received a grant of £1,000 from the Lotteries Commission and a bequest from the estate of Margaret Young, deceased, authorised the sum of £4,000 to be spent. A building of thirteen squares was contemplated. Tenders were called in June, and in July it was reported that the contract had been let to Mr. J. Frank. Building could not be commenced until the Association possessed title to the land.
In the previous year, as has been stated earlier, the block adjoining the Belmont Training Centre had come up for sale. As the Association was not in a position to purchase it at the time, and as obviously it would be a valuable addition to the Centre property, through the generosity of the President and two committee members–Mr. Clarkson contributing £250 and Mrs. Keall and Higgins £150 each–the purchase price was made up. Now the committee was able to reimburse them, and the title deeds were transferred to the Association. The building was duly erected by the end of the year and added a pleasant little dwelling to the administrative buildings a stone’s throw away.
In July the salary of the Training Director, which had risen from £728 in 1955 to £900 in 1956, was increased to £1,000.
A school for blind students took place at the centre in June-July, the four dogs previously booked for Victorian students being re-allocated. This had been rendered necessary by events in Melbourne.
At the beginning of May, Gordon Duxbury, signing himself as Honorary Secretary of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association of Victoria (Provisional), had reported to the Secretary of the Perth Association that the Melbourne committee had been constituted. Its members were: Chairman, Sir Norman Martin; Members, G. W. Duxbury, Solicitor; G. A. Letts, Veterinary Surgeon; P. J. Lynch, President, Blinded Soldiers’ Association; T. A. Pettigrew, Company Director; J. Ross, Company Director; R. H. Sampson, Herald newspaper. Mr. C. A. Ellison, President of the Labrador Club, was also to be asked to join.
This Committee, after a lengthy discussion of the points involved, did not consider it expedient to bring over the four guide dogs already trained for Victorian blind. This was on account of discussions which were proceeding between the President and Secretary of the committee, and the President of the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind, Dr. Charles Bennett.
The committee, therefore, had regretfully to ask the Western Australian Association to place the dogs elsewhere. On receiving their communication, Mr. Clarkson immediately telephoned Sir Norman Martin in Melbourne, and later confirmed the conversation by letter. He remarked that unlike whisky or wine, completely trained dogs could not be set aside to improve with age, and it was not easy to divert them to Western Australian blind who could not fit in with a training school at short notice. The dogs were at high tension. Something had to be done. He suggested that two of the blind Victorian applicants (the third having given notice that he could not take a dog yet) should be sent over to Perth immediately, if Melbourne could not arrange for the dogs to be received there.
To give practical substance to this suggestion, Mr. Clarkson, true to his usual generous approach to the relief of the blind, offered to underwrite the costs involved, so that the Western Australian Government would not judge the two Victorians a charge against funds raised in Western Australia; and so that the blind applicants themselves should not suffer disappointment. But if the Melbourne committee could not deal promptly with his suggestion, he considered that the Apex Club of Melbourne might take on the job of raising the necessary funds to cover the costs of training the dogs and transporting the students.
After the Ballarat Convention of Apex Clubs at Easter, when John Stokes had placed the guide dog project before them, Apex members had returned to their home States full of enthusiasm. Mr. Ray Waiters, of the Claremont Apex Club, followed up with a circular and letter despatched to all Clubs.
The alerting of this Australia-wide association produced information of a disturbing nature. A member from Zone 9 reported that in the Sydney Sun of 29th May, 1957, there had been a short article headed “Eyes for the Blind,” which announced that a guide dog training school would be commenced in Sydney by a recently formed society whose president was the comedian Johnny Craig. It would have a trainer from the United States, and would be run on lines similar to centres in Western Australia and Victoria.
Apexians in Newcastle, New South Wales, also disclosed that there was a movement to found a centre there. Both societies appeared to be only at the stage of conception, therefore it behoved the Western Australian Guide Dog Association to put out publicity rapidly which would show that the Belmont Centre, already established, could provide dogs immediately in sufficient numbers to those who applied for them; and that to found other centre,, at this stage would be an unnecessary expense to the public. Apex Clubs were asked to press this point home.
Following on Mr. Clarkson’s suggestion, two of the three blind persons in Melbourne who had applied for dogs in 1956 at last arrived in Perth to attend a training class at the Belmont Centre commencing 17th June. They were Miss Barbara Gillott, of Brighton, Victoria, who was a proof reader and teacher of Braille at the Victorian Association of Braille Libraries and travelled daily from Brighton to Prahran; and Mrs. Phyllis Gration, with the qualifications of A.L.C.M. and B.A., who had just completed a post-graduate course in French and Italian, and who lived with her husband and two children in Malvern. Two Western Australian men, from Pemberton and Maylands, completed the class of four.
Two more classes were held, in August and November, ten dogs in all being trained this year. The August class contained two men and a woman from New South Wales, and another woman from South Australia. The November class contained a man and a woman from New South Wales, and a woman from Western Australia, Mrs. Courtney-Bennett, for whom Arnold Cook’s dog Dreena was being re-trained, Cook having gone on study leave to the United States.
On completion of the training course, a simple ceremony of handing over the guide dogs to their owners was arranged by the Association. When, however, the two blind Victorian ladies returned to their home State, Miss Gillott with Nina and Mrs. Gration with Nell, there was a fanfare of welcome to them. The Press gave the event much space. Repeated references in Melbourne newspapers appeared to mean that the training centre for guide dogs would be shifted to Melbourne; and a statement that Melbourne had ordered dogs from Perth placed the wrong emphasis on the actual standing of the two Associations, and ignored the fact that the dogs had been offered by Perth.
Members of the Western Australian Association, reading reports sent from Melbourne in their own newspapers, began to make inquiries from the committee about future plans. The committee saw a threat to the flow of local finance. There was indeed a drop in voluntary donations.
Both to reassure the Association’s own members, and to try to prevent misguided if well-meant enthusiasm, the committee felt that the need for establishing a National Council as an over-riding authority on guide dog activity was urgent, and that their conception of it should be explained to the public. A Western Australian member of the Federal Parliament, the Honourable Paul Hasluck, was approached for suggestions and support; radio talks were prepared by the Vice-President, Mr. Mallett; and the President, Mr. Clarkson, wrote to the Editor of the West Australian that:
Guide Dogs for the Blind are making headline news in several States since dogs trained in Western Australia have been supplied to blind people in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
As the pioneers of guide dog training in Australia we are anxious that this great humanitarian work should not be jeopardised by well-meaning but ill-informed people anxious to establish guide dog training centres in other parts of the Commonwealth.
We urge your co-operation in publisising the material herewith enclosed, and in lending your support to the proposal to form a National council for the reasons outlined.
The accompanying material gave accurate information about guide dog training and the small number of trainers in the world, emphasising that trainers of gun-dogs and police-dogs who trained for obedience were not qualified to train guide dogs. Accidents could be caused by inadequately trained dogs. In the U.S.A. legislation had been passed confining the training of guide dogs to qualified personnel; similar legislation was desirable in Australia.
The time had come to serve the interests of blind people best by placing the whole guide dog training programme on a Federal basis, with each State playing its part in a concerted plan to utilise existing resources, whether human, financial or material, to the best advantage. It was felt that as the only body with practical first-hand experience of the subject, the Western Australian Association could make a valuable contribution to a National Council if formed; and not only with advice, but with the resources it already had at the Belmont Centre for providing about fifteen dogs a year. Comparisons with Britain and America suggested that an output of twenty to twenty-five dogs a year should satisfy Australian requirements on a long-term basis. It would not be difficult, with the addition of several apprentice trainers, for Belmont to provide this number.
But the establishment of a National Council was not an easy matter. While the Perth committee was deliberating on the subject, the Melbourne committee was having difficulty in settling its troubles with organisations for the blind. The extent and nature of their opposition had to be discovered.
In the early years of the guide dog movement in Western Australia, the Association had encountered opposition from various institutions for the blind. In 1952 and 1953 adverse criticism from the Royal Sydney Industrial Institute for the Blind had appeared in print in the Sydney Morning Herald and in the Bulletin, casting doubts as to the use of guide dogs and giving misleading figures as to the expense of training them. This criticism had been replied to and refuted by the President. In 1952, too, the Western Australian Institute and Industrial School for the Blind let the Guide Dogs Association know that it was felt the guide dog movement would interfere with their fundraising activities. Again the President stepped into the breach. Meetings and discussion took place and at length mutual understanding was reached, which placed relations between the two bodies on a very good footing that was to last through the years.
Another body which at first objected to the training of guide dogs was the Victorian Kennel Club, which feared the work would be unfair and arduous to the dogs. A visit of its President, Mr. Frank Longmore, to the Belmont Centre, was enough to satisfy him that the dogs were extremely happy in serving humanity and receiving the love and adulation of their owners. Mr. Longmore was of help in smoothing the way between Dr. Bennett, President of the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind, and the incipient Melbourne committee for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
By the middle of November, 1957, matters had progressed far enough for the Western Australian committee to go ahead with plans for a national council meeting. Letters had been sent from Western Australia to other State committees which had been set up by Apex, outlining the arrangements and the proposed programme for an inaugural conference of the National Council of Guide Dogs for the Blind Associations of Australia.
This inaugural conference was held in Perth on 8th December. A satisfactory congregation of delegates and observers from other States was present. They were:
New South Wales: Mr. D. Gameron, Mr. A. MeNish. Victoria: Mr. G. Duxbury, Mr. R. Sampson. South Australia: Mr. F. Beauehamp.
Western Australia: Mr. S. Clarkson, Mr. J. Stokes.
Mr. K. Bunn, New South Wales Secretary, Australian National Council for
Mr. C. Cornish, Western Australia, Vice-President, Australian National
Council for the Blind.
Mr. R. Waiters, Western Australian Chairman, Apex Guide Dog National
Mr. J. K. Holdsworth, Director of Training, Guide Dogs for the Blind,
Mr. J. A. Mallett, Vice-President, Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and representative for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the
Mr. C. Smedley, Conference Secretary.
Mr. Clarkson, President of the Western Australian Association, opened the meeting with an address of welcome to the interstate visitors and expressed the hope that the meeting would be successful. He then asked the meeting to elect a Chairman. The meeting elected him the Chairman.
As Chairman, Mr. Clarkson asked the delegates and observers to express their views on the guide dog movement, whether favourable or contrary.
Showing that some measure of goodwill had been achieved by preliminary discussions, Mr. Cornish said that he and Mr. Bunn had been requested to express the National Council for the Blind’s friendly co-operation and to state that while the Council approved the use of guide dogs, it viewed with concern the possible establishment of an extensive organisation in excess of actual needs. This was because it might lead to:
- the incorrect use of guide dogs as opposed to companion dogs, and
- the tying-up of public giving at the expense of primary needs such as education and sheltered employment.
It would seem that this latter clause exposed a fundamental difference of point of view. The National Council for the Blind was concerned with spreading relief for their disability over the greatest number of blind; the Guide Dogs Association was bent on providing a life as normal as possible for the few who yearned for, and merited, activity and development of their resources.
The discussion at the conference then veered to what the total financial requirements for institutes for the blind might be, as opposed to the total cost of a certain number of guide dogs. Mr. Bunn stated that there were seven homes for the blind in Victoria, and two were being built in New South Wales which would be forerunners of others. He said his council feared that large amounts beyond the need of the guide dog movement would be raised, because of the appeal to public imagination.
The Chairman said that the very move to form a national council of guide dogs for the blind indicated that this organisation was conscious of the economic requirements, and the streamlining of public giving.
More discussion brought the two camps to a measure of agreement. “The wasting of public funds by the establishment of multiple centres throughout the country makes it imperative that we aim to establish one centre in Australia at the best location,” said Mr. Stokes. “In considering this, it must be borne in mind that we have a centre in Western Australia capable of covering the requirements of all States.”.
It was finally decided that a National Council should be formed whose aims should be:
- Control and administration of a national guide dog centre.
- Apportionment of the financial responsibilities of the States, based on population quotient.
- The allocation of guide dogs throughout Australia.
- The co-ordination of guide dog activities throughout the Commonwealth.
The title was to be: “The National Council of Guide Dogs for the Blind Associations of Australia”. The Belmont Centre was to be known from henceforth as “The Guide Dog National Training Centre,” and all assets appertaining to the Centre were to be vested in the National Council, the value of the assets to be credited to the Western Australian Association.
In nominating Mr. S. Clarkson as inaugural President of the Council, Mr.Duxbury paid tribute to the splendid service given by him to the guide dog movement over the years.
As it was considered necessary for the Secretary to be located in the same State as the President, Mr. C. Smedley vas appointed Secretary-Treasurer for the next twelve months.
To allow consideration to be given to the question of the most economical and central location for the training centre, Mr. ttoldsworth was asked to speak to the meeting. He pointed out the problems experienced in maintaining a supply of dogs, and the retarding effect the long, hot summer in Western Australia had on the training of them. Playing up to him, Mr. Duxbury asked whether the Perth delegates could submit a firm recommendation as to the best location for a national centre. On consultation among themselves the Perth delegates asked Mr. Holdsworth to state his opinion on this. he replied that be considered somewhere in Victoria would be the most suitable place to establish a national guide dog training centre.
It was then moved by Mr. D. Cameron of New South Wales and seconded by his colleague from there, that plans be put in hand for the transfer of the National Training Centre to Victoria.
Although the minutes of the council meeting say that the motion was carried unanimously, it should be recorded that up to the last committee meeting of the Western Australian Association that year the local committee was still determined on a training centre functioning from Western Australia only, and their delegates at this inaugural meeting strove to adhere to this. The arguments used at the conference apparently, however, convinced them that a national training centre would have to be located in a more central and populous State.
The conference ended by moving that the Victorian committee should try to hasten the formation of a State committee in Tasmania, and that the New South Wales committee endeavour to do the same in Queensland.
AS MR. CLARKSON had been elected to the office of President of the National Council, he decided not to stand for re-election to the Presidency of the Western Australian Association. At the Annual General Meeting on 21st March, 1958, Mr. J. Stokes was elected as his successor. The Vice-Presidents were Mr. J. Mallett, and Mr. C. Smedley, the latter also being Treasurer. The committee was composed of Mrs. C. Gibbon, Mrs. S. Clarkson, I. McCall, C. Mead, L. Potter and R. Walters.
In making his report to the Annual General Meeting, the retiring President recapitulated the events leading up to the formation of the National Council of Guide Dogs for the Blind Associations of Australia. He told the meeting that as from 1st January this year the entire financial responsibility of the Belmont Training Centre had been taken over by the National Council. The Belmont Centre would operate on behalf of the Council until such time as it was considered expedient to establish a training centre at some point in the Eastern States more central for the blind people of Australia, more suitable climatically and where there would be a more available supply of dogs.
“This decision,” he said, “unquestionably was in the best interests of the movement, ensuring as it does against duplication of services with the attendant risks of inefficient training, and wasteful expenditure at the expense of the public”.
He ended: “I do feel that Western Australia is to be congratulated on establishing this great humanitarian work on a solid basis; on ensuring its future success as a national institution; and finally, on securing to the people of Western Australia who have supported us so generously, the complete capital expenditure involved in our establishment. These funds will be reserved exclusively for providing dogs to citizens of Western Australia”.
This announcement was made in March, yet in June the Treasurer of the National Council was expressing disappointment at the slowness of Eastern States’ remittances and at the prolonged delay in the registration of New South Wales and South Australia. The Western Australian Association’s bank overdraft stood at £3,866–far beyond the limit permitted. The Western Australian committee reluctantly and in diplomatically couched language decided that if there were no payments, no dogs would be supplied. In the following month, telephone calls to Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia emphasising Western Australia’s difficulty in administering the National Training Centre without financial support, resulted in amounts of £1,000 and £550 being received from Victoria and South Australia, respectively. New South Wales reported that it had achieved registration under the Charities Act and anticipated raising funds in the near future to meet its indebtedness to the National Council. In August, the New South Wales committee undertook the payment of the first Queensland student’s expenses for training at Belmont.
The Treasurer then reported that it was necessary to have a special conference of the National Council for decisions on major problems of finance to be made. This was arranged to take place in Melbourne in September.
At the September meeting Mr. Holdsworth submitted a series of recommendations on salary scales for apprentices and trainers, the implementation of which, he said, would reduce uncertainty in intending apprentices and would attract more work force to the movement.
His proposals were that Apprentices should receive £850 per annum, with £50 annual increases to a maximum of £1,000, and were to be qualified as Trainers at the end of a minimum of 2 years; Trainers were to receive £1,100, with £50 annual increases to a maximum of £1,300; Instructors (Grade 2) were to receive £1,400, to a maximum of £1,500, and Instructors (Grade 1) were to receive £1,600 to £1,800.
He also suggested an annual bonus of £100 to be paid at the end of five years and to be used for a working holiday to Britain to keep up with modern developments there.
The conference adjourned to consider these proposals and also other financial matters such as the replacement of vans, and employing additional staff. The next meeting was to take place early in 1959.
The new President of the Western Australian Association, Mr. J. G. Stokes, was suddenly obliged in May, 1958, to place his resignation before the committee. lIis firm was transferring him to Kalangadoo, South Australia. this departure was deeply regretted, but the committee had the consolation of knowing that he would still continue to work for the movement on the National Council. Mr. J. Mallett was elected President in his stead.Students’ training schools were held at Belmont throughout 1958, in April, June, September and December. All the students for this year came from the Eastern States. There were eight from Victoria, two from New South Wales, one from South Australia, three from Tasmania and one from Queensland.
As the cost of living had increased, the charge for board had to be raised from £3 to £3.10 for the two final schools.
Two films on the work of the Association, showing the training of dogs and students working with them, had been made in 1956 by Mrs. Ella Gason. These had been so much appreciated that the committee now authorised copies to be made for circulation in the Eastern States. They were named Eyes in the Darkness and Whither Thou Goest, a sequel to the first.
It was thought advisable for Mr. Hatehley, the head trainer, to make a visit to Queensland, to coincide with the return of the Queensland student, Mrs. L. R. Arnold, of West End. An unauthorised trainer had set up in Queensland, and it was thought that it would be well for Mr. Hatehley to give some talks and direct publicity using the newly arrived guide dog, Wane. He accordingly left in September. Brisbane Apex had funds in hand for the cost of the dog, but Mr. Hatchley’s visit would raise the cost to £600 or £700. It was agreed that the expense could be met by the National body until Queensland had made further progress with funds.
At the last meeting of the year another member of the committee was obliged to hand in his resignation, for reasons of ill health. This was the Treasurer, Mr. Smedley, whose loss was a double one, as he was also Treasurer of the National Council. Speaking as the Association’s Treasurer, Mr. Smedley reported a bank overdraft of £2,266 and said that the bank requested a mortgage on the property at Belmont. It was moved and seconded that a mortgage of £4,000 be negotiated with the Bank of New South Wales. Mr. Smedley recommended that no transfer of Western Australian assets be made to the National Council body until such time as the member Associations met their commitments. This was agreed to, rather heartily.
These two films gained the following awards in Australian Amateur Cine Societies. Eyes in the Darkness: First Prize, Western Australian Amateur Cine Society; Top Marks for Audience Appeal; Award of Merit, Sonth Australian Amateur Cine Society; Fifth Place, Victoria Five Best; Second Best, Adelaide Filmo Club. Whither Thou Goest: Second Prize, Western Australian Amateur cine Society; David Link Trophy; Third Prize, Interstate Competition.
THE ACTIVITIES of 1959 began with a meeting of the National Council held in Perth on 25th January. The National President and the Secretary- Treasurer remained the same as at the previous Council meeting. The State delegates were:
- New South Wales: Dr. N. Pryde.
- Victoria: Mr. G. Duxbury.
- South Australia: Mr. T. F. Ballantyne.
- Tasmania: Mr. J. Holder.
- Western Australia: Mr. J. Mallett.
- Attending as advisors were Mr. J. Stokes, Advisory Engineer, and Mr. J. K. Holdsworth, National Training Director.
- Lady Coles, of the Victorian Women’s Auxiliary, attended as an observer.
The Secretary-Treasurer, Mr. Smedley, presented a statement of the financial position and remarked that he could not say it was satisfactory. Initially, he said, each State Association had been asked to establish a credit against the dogs to be supplied. This was agreed to again at the September meeting, but Tasmania was the only State to do so. He pointed out that without establishing a fund, the National Council was solely dependent on the Western Australian Association to carry the Training Centre. The Training Centre cost £800 a month to run, and at present this amount was being found by the Western Australian Association.
Mr. Smedley further stated that there had been no move to transfer the Western Australian Association’s assets to the National body. This could not be done till a suitable document had been drawn up to cover the security of the assets.
He informed the meeting that the cost of a dog this year was very close to the cost in the previous year, that is, about £500. Dr. Pryde (New South Wales) moved that a uniform guide dog cost throughout the Commonwealth be established.
Various other matters arising from the September meeting, such as incorporation. trustees, taxation, superannuation, were discussed before the meeting proceeded to the election of officers. Mr. Clarkson was re-elected President; Mr. Mallett, Vice-President; and Mr. Stokes, Secretary-Treasurer in place of Mr. Smedley, who was retiring on account of ill-health.
The subject of new premises for a national training centre was then discussed. A site at Kew, a suburb of Melbourne, had been selected, and the Victorian Government was disposed to grant some six and a half acres in the form of a permanent reservation. It was pointed out that this meant only “license to use,” and could not be regarded as security of tenure. Mr. Stokes moved that the Honorary National Solicitor, Mr. Duxbury, take steps to see that adequate security was given to the National Council in the building on the site. The motion was carried, and architects’ plans which had been drawn up were examined by the meeting.
The architect’s estimates of costs of the new Training Centre were: Director’s house, £4,800 £5,000. Main block, £20,000 £24,000.
All kennels, including hospital block, ultimate £8,500, first stage £5,000. Earthworks and roads, £3,000. Sundry buildings, £3,000.
Fencing, trees and furnishings, voluntary.
Each delegate was then asked to give a report on his State’s financial position in relation to the new Training Centre.
Victoria stated that it had a small amount of money on hand and had permission to conduct an appeal for £50,000 in 1960. There was no possibility of having the appeal before then. It was also expected that the Charities and Grants Commission would make a grant of £10,000.
South Australia also reported a small credit balance and a three-year plan to raise £8,000.
New South Wales said that it was still in the throes of raising money, having only recently formed a committee for that purpose. The committee expected to raise £12,000 in the current year, £12,000 in the next and £5,000 yearly thereafter.
Tasmania stated that an appeal was planned for this year with a target of from £2,000 to £2,500.
Next, the Director of Training, Mr. Holdsworth, brought up the matter of payment for dogs. He was of the opinion that it should be made clear, both by State organisations and again at the Training Centre, that it was expected but not obligatory that guide dog owners should make a payment for their dogs. After considerable discussion, it was felt that the time was not opportune to take any action in this matter.
Mr. Holdsworth’s proposed scale of salary increases came under consideration, and the Secretary was directed to circularise all member organisations with the details of these, together with the cost per annum which the scheme would involve.
At the close of the meeting the Victorian delegate moved a vote of thanks to the President for making his home available for the conference, and to the Western Australian Association for the hospitality arranged for the visitors. In the following week a very warm and courteous letter of thanks was received from Lady Coles, expressing the interest she had felt in seeing the Belmont Centre at work.
Early in 1959 the Perth committee lost one of its foundation members. Mrs. Constance Gibbon resigned owing to ill-health. Her resignation was received with regret and the committee resolved unanimously to make her an honorary life member of the Association. She was also invited to become a trustee. At the end of the year, for the same reason as Mrs. Gibbon, Mr. Sidney Congdon resigned.
The Western Australian Association was still concerned about its overdraft at the bank and was not made any happier by the results of the annual street appeal for 1959. Usually in the vicinity of £1,400 to £1,500, this year it had dropped to £979. This may have reflected a loss of public interest since the news of ultimate transfer to the Eastern States. Mrs. Mead, the Public Relations Officer, was, however, able to offset the loss by announcing that the Perth Homes Exhibition, the Kalgoorlie Fair, the Manjimup Apple Festival and a wharf collection had brought in a gross total of £608. And Mrs. Lytton, President of the Women’s Auxiliary, reported that a hat parade had brought in £97. The Women’s Auxiliary had also run a fashion parade, jumble sale, a guide dog ball, and the Safety Bay sub-branch had sent in £85.
More publicity was felt to be needed, and this was pressed by Mr. Holds-worth because not enough applications for dogs were coming in. He stressed the need for a national fund-raising and publicity officer to be appointed on a salaried basis, to co-ordinate and assist the States in these matters. Mr. Clarkson suggested that the Training Director himself should visit all States about mid-May to stimulate interest in the movement and its achievements, and to channel accurate and detailed information to representative individuals. The cost of his visit could be charged against the National Council, and not to the Western Australian Association.
Tied up with the business of publicity was the question of whether independent statements to the press by guide dog owners should be allowed. The British Association included a restrictive clause on the subject in its agreement form; the Australian Association had not done so thus far, but this might have to be done. The report in a Melbourne paper of a statement made by Mrs. P. Gration,
owner of the guide dog Nell, was likely to cause embarrassment to the movement, which was progressing so slowly in Victoria. Mrs. Gration, who was then a member of the Melbourne committee, was reported to have said that a £40,000 training centre at Kew was an unwarranted expense to the public. It should be started on a smaller scale or incorporated with an existing organisation for the blind. She added that the number of dogs applied for was very small.
Mr. Holdsworth was to look into the matter when he went East in May. Meanwhile, the National Secretary, Mr. Stokes, replied to the criticism by stating that the Kew centre would turn out dogs more cheaply than any similar centre in the world, and that the national requirements were at present twenty- five dogs a year. Mrs. Gration’s retort was to leave the Melbourne Association after the Annual Meeting in October, 1959, when she was not re-elected to the committee, and to form an organisation of her own, called The Guide Dog Owners and Friends Association. Six months later her Association opened The Lady Nell “Seeing Eye.” Dog School at Wonga Park. In a brochure brought out by her appealing for funds, the cost of a dog was stated to be £300, the dog to be supplied free.
The Training Director left on 18th May and toured all capital cities. His crowded itinerary included addressing eight public meetings, giving eighteen radio talks and interviews, appearing five times on television, and giving a large number of press interviews. He met the members of the various State committees. He visited twenty guide dog owners and interviewed seventeen applicants. He returned on 19th June.
During 1959 the Belmont Centre held a training school in April for three local students and two from New South Wales. Another school for four students took place in October and two students were possibilities for November. The numbers represented a drop both in applications for dogs, and in production of trained dogs. Such a drop added to the cost of dogs.
The increase in the cost of training and supplying dogs had begun to alarm the State committee as early as March, 1959. On figures presented to the March committee meeting it appeared that the dogs would cost about £800 a head. Part of the reason for this was that the apprentice trainer, Peter Glassborow, had just resigned for personal reasons. Unless he was replaced, fewer dogs would be trained. If he was replaced, Mr. Holdsworth was of the opinion that the right sort of apprentice would not be attracted by the wages at present offered. The wage scale altogether was thoroughly unsatisfactory. The reviewed scale of wages which he had put up to the National Council the previous September was still under consideration, and he hoped the matter could be speeded up.
Not only the matter of wages needed to be speeded up. Finance for the National Training Centre at Belmont needed to be put on a stable footing, and the matter of the future training centre provisionally considered as at Kew, had to be determined. A meeting of the National Council was called for 25th October at Adelaide. A special meeting of the Western Australian committee was held in the previous month to prepare a recommendation for wage scales similar to those put forward earlier by Mr. Holdsworth, but related to the basic wage.
In September the visit of Princess Alexandra resulted in some favourable publicity for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Associations, after Miss B. Gillot in Melbourne, and Mrs. L. R. Arnold in Brisbane had been presented to Her Royal Highness. The suggestion was made that the proposed new National Training Centre should be called after the Princess. Shortly afterwards another suggestion was made, emanating from South Australia, that it should be named after Jack Davey, a radio personality well known and well liked by most Australians. Davey had recently died and it was felt that a memorial to him would have great popular appeal in all States, particularly as he had been a strong supporter of the guide dog movement.
WHEN THE National Council had its next meeting, which took place in Hobart from 30th January to 1st February, 1960, the Jack Davey Memorial project was one of the first things to be discussed. Approaches made to the Macquarie Broadcasting Network for support were reported, and the meeting was informed that the late Jack Davey’s widow approved of the proposal. It was finally moved and carried, “That the National Council adopt as an immediate project the establishment of a training centre for guide dogs for the blind as a national memorial to the late Jack Davey, to be known as “The Jack Davey Memorial Guide Dog Training Centre”. A sub-committee was appointed to deal with the implementation of the appeal, consisting of Dr. N. Pryde, Mr. K. McCaw (New South Wales), Mr. Harold Cumming (South Australia), the National President (ex officio), with Mr. B. Rutt as convenor, South Australia would advance the necessary money to commence operations.
But the question still remained: where was this training centre to be? Victoria had not been able to achieve any more from the State Government than its promise of a permanent reservation of land at Kew. Western Australia and New South Wales were unanimously agreed that this was not good enough. Security of tenure was not assured. The debate at the Hobart conference from time to time became somewhat warm, other Associations revealing a lack of faith in the Victorian one. At length it was decided that a further extension of time be granted to try to secure a Crown grant at Kew, although several of the delegates were in favour of seeking alternative sites in New South Wales or South Australia. Of necessity, it was resolved that the national centre remain in Perth for two years. Meanwhile, the architect was to be asked to suspend operations for the time being.
As though this contentious question were not enough for the meeting to sharpen its teeth upon, a further bone was flung to it–the matter of the Training Director’s study leave.
When Mr. Holdsworth was engaged in London in 1955, provision was made that he was to be paid £100 for the first two years to enable him to return to England at some future date. lie now submitted that it would be in the best interests of the Associations for him to examine English developments, and also visit the United States to see their techniques of pre-testing puppies, which would be of value to Australia later on. It might be possible to do this by means of some foundation grant.
The meeting sprang to attention and gave itself to a discussion of the difference between air and sea fares, and also what effect the absence of the Director for a considerable length of time would have on the training and cost of dogs. The Western Australian delegate, Mr. Mallett, said in outraged tones that this was the first he had heard of the proposal. It was explained that the Senior Trainer, Mr. Eric Hatchley, had to return to England for personal reasons in 1961. It would be best, therefore, all things considered, if Mr. Holdsworth took his study leave before this. Mr. Itoldsworth said that if he did not take his leave this year he was not prepared to wait indefinitely. Mr. Mallett replied that he personally was not happy about dog production at the Belmont Centre and felt that the Director’s absence would add to these costs by rendering the Centre short-staffed. The matter was referred back to the Western Australian committee to investigate and make a recommendation to the National Council as soon as possible.
The meeting concluded with a vote of thanks to the Tasmanian Association and an invitation to hold the next Annual Meeting in Sydney.
The sub-committee for the Jack Davey Appeal met several times in Sydney. The furthest the Victorian Government would go towards meeting the National Council about a Crown grant at Kew was to re-state the grant of a permanent reservation, making it revocable only by an Act of Parliament, A decision was requested by the Government before 30th April. This left unaltered the facts that Western Australia was expected to convert its freehold land and buildings and to transfer the proceeds to a site that was not absolutely irrevocable; and that the proposed grant would be unmortgageable, or saleable by the National Council in the event that a decision were made to change the site of the Centre. In some quarters a straight-out land purchase deal was considered by Council members. There was always the question of funds to set against this suggestion, however.
On 4th April, therefore, a circular was issued on the part of the National Council, setting out the facts about the Kew site, and asking for a postal vote on the subject. On 12th April, a special meeting of the Western Australian Association decided against the Kew site, stating that the Jack Davey Appeal to be made in June would be materially strengthened by the acquisition of a freehold site. Geelong, Ballarat and Dandenong were mooted as possible sites. After the postal vote requested had been taken, however, the result was:
For Kew: Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.
Against Kew: Western Australia and New South Wales.
The majority vote, therefore, was in favour of the Kew site under the terms that revocation could only be effected by Act of the Victorian Parliament. This decision was made known to the Victorian Government by 9th April.
The Jack Davey Appeal was launched simultaneously in all States on 6th June, except in Western Australia, that day being the Foundation Day holiday. On 7th June, therefore, following the procedure of the other capitals, the Lord Mayor officially opened the appeal with a short ceremony.
Publicity for the appeal was placed by the National Secretary, now Mr. B. lutt of South Australia, in the hands of a National Co-ordinating Officer. Support was promised by the Maequarie Broadcasting Network, Ampol, Pope Products and Fox Movietone.
Major commercial and industrial firms in each State were contacted. Victoria advised the National Council that it would forego its own State Appeal in favour of the Jack Davey Appeal. All seemed geared to achieve great success.
It did not get off to a very good start in Western Australia, however. The Publicity Officer arranged for by the National Co-ordinating Officer did very little preliminary work, being absent from the State a good part of the time. In the first two weeks of the appeal in Western Australia only £17 came in. Nevspaper correspondence in that time advocated the retention of the Centre in Western Australia. A letter in reply by the President (Mr. Mallett), and a photograph and article about Mrs. Mead and Beau were about the best publicity the Appeal obtained. The net total for Western Australia was £900, and of this, £638 was presented by Station 6IX, being the proceeds from the sale of Jack Davey records.
Things went better in other States, although the overall result was considered somewhat disappointing. Nevertheless, a net total of £16,892 was achieved. It was hoped that with this in hand a start could soon be made to erect a building. Tenders were called for, and the appeal was kept going in the following year.
Not long after the opening of the appeal in June, the President of the Western Australian Association reported he had been approached by an organisation which would be interested in purchasing the Belmont Centre in the event of transference to Victoria. A valuation of the property required to be made. This was set in hand, but took a considerable time to complete. Further time for consideration was taken by the prospective buyer, which proved to be the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Towards the end of the following year this Society indicated that it was no longer interested in the Belmont property.
In September, 1960, the proposed study leave of the Director of Training was considered by the Perth committee, and it was decided to make a grant of £500 to both Mr. Holdsworth and Mr. Hatchley within the next twelve to eighteen months. A recommendation for future grants was to be sent to the National Council, and the establishment of the principle was to be written into staff contracts, if the council approved. Mr. Holdsworth and his family left for the United Kingdom about the beginning of November and returned to Western Australia six months later. Mr. Hatchley and family went the following year in October, 1961, and returned in April, 1962.
The sudden death of the committee’s President, Mr. J. Mallett, occurred in September, 1960. At the meeting on the 28th of that month, the senior Vice-President, Mr. Potter, took the chair and spoke feelingly about the late President, his zeal for the guide dog movement and his association with it since its commencement in Western Australia. His contribution to the movement had been of inestimable value, and he would be sadly missed both by the State and the National body.
The meeting unanimously decided that Mr. Potter should assume the duties of President until the next annual meeting of the Association.
At the end of the year the Honorary Veterinary Adviser, Dr. T. Hogarth, who had been connected with the Association since its beginning, was made a life member; and a presentation of a table was made to the retiring housekeeper of the Belmont Centre, Mrs. Furlonger, who had given service for four years.
During 1960 necessary extensions to kennels, and additions and alterations to accommodation at Belmont were carried out and a reticulation scheme with sprinklers was installed in the grounds. A splendid contribution of man-hours and hard labour by the Apex Club of Claremont kept costs down to a very reasonable figure. Over the years this Club had contributed more than 1,000 man-hours of concentrated effort to the cause of the guide dogs, as well as the sum of £60 per annum to the Association from Club service funds.
Mrs. Elsie Mead, as Public Relations Officer, was responsible for about two-thirds of the gross total of nearly £6,000 raised in Western Australia this year. With her dog, Beau, she travelled far and wide in the State, and kept in touch with many organisations, providing them with films, literature and publicity material. She featured in several TV shows and broadcasts, becoming quite a well-known personality in the community.
Sixteen dogs were trained in this year.
AT THE BEGINNING Of 1961, two blind students came from New Zealand to train with dogs at Belmont. They were sisters, the Misses Fraser, and their arrival brought some good publicity for the guide dog movement. A short TV film about them was made, and they were entertained by the Women’s Auxiliary. One sister proved more proficient than the other, and much time and patient work was given by Mr. Hatchley to overcome the other sister’s handicaps.
In June, with the application of another prospective student from New Zealand, Mr. Holdsworth was obliged to write to the New Zealand Foundation for the Blind and point out that adequate information must be given, and selection made most carefully from that end, in sending forward candidates. The long journey involved much cost and disappointment if the applicant proved unsuitable and did not qualify in training with a dog. The New Zealand Foundation replied by expressing its willingness to meet the costs involved.
Later in the year there was even an inquiry from Hawaii; but while a reply was sent giving the information requested, the committee agreed there could be no possibility yet of sending dogs to that area.
Mr. Potter, who had been elected President of the Western Australian Association at its Annual General Meeting, reported at the April committee meeting on the National Council conference held in Sydney from the 24th to the 26th February, 1961, at which he had been the Western Australian delegate. The situation was happily harmonious: good progress had been made in all States. Financial affairs were satisfactory. Queensland was registered and affiliated with the National Council. Ground work on the Kew site had commenced, and title to the Kew land was vested in the three National Council Trustees–Mr. S. Clarkson, Sir Norman Martin, and Alderman B. Osborne of Tasmania. The subject of incorporation in Canberra had been discussed and was under examination. Legislation for the licensing of guide dog centres and guide dog trainers came under review and representations were to be made to all State Governments about the subject. Copies of existing legislation in force in California were later sent to all State Association secretaries.
At Belmont, a “cadet handler”–a new term used instead of “apprentice”–in the person of Mr. Tom Blair was enrolled at the beginning of the year and proved of great worth. He was later to become the first trainer to qualify in Australia. A second cadet handler was also enrolled. Four student training classes were held during the year, the April class consisting of one student from New South Wales and one from South Australia, and the two New Zealand sisters. The May class included two students from Western Australia and two from New South Wales, while the September class had one from Western Australia and two from New South Wales. The last class of the year, however, contained only one student, from South Australia.
The prospect of only one applicant for the last class prompted Mr. Holdsworth in August to advise the committee of his concern at the apathy of the Victorian committee in relation to publicity and procuring applications for dogs. He wondered if a publicity campaign could be conducted by Mrs. Elsie Mead, travelling with her dog Beau to both Victoria and Queensland, to stimulate interest and bring in applications for the following year.
His suggestion was passed on to the various State Associations, who replied favouring a tour in the autumn of 1962. The Western Australian Association emphasised that to derive the full benefit from such an expensive undertaking, each State must organise fully for Mrs. Mead’s visit, and maintain a good follow-up plan after the visit. The follow-up was particularly necessary.
Publicity for the Training Centre was all the more needed in Victoria because of the activities of Mrs. Gration and the Lady Nell “Seeing Eye” Dog School. It was reported that an appeal for £10,000 was being launched, with Government approval, by the Guide Dog Owners and Friends Association which supported the school. This Association was registered with the Hospital and Charities Commission, and was under the patronage of Lord Clifford. The Lady Nell school had produced its first trained guide dog, Saki, in January of this year. It could jeopardise the work of the National Training Centre in the minds of the public. Mrs. Gration’s use of unqualified trainers could constitute a potential danger to the blind. Strong counter-publicity was needed, and it was felt that the tour of Mrs. Mead and Beau could provide this. Mrs. Lytton, a past President of the Women’s Auxiliary who had given place to Mrs. Roy Saw in 1960, was willing to accompany Mrs. Mead on the trip, and not only would she smooth many difficulties from the path of Mrs. Mead, but she would contribute in her own right to the success of the venture as she was conversant with all phases of the movement from the several years she had spent at the head of the Women’s Auxiliary.
THIS YEAR 1962, was to be a very important one for the Western Australian Association, for it saw the end of all that they had built up in the State. In spite of the fact that they themselves had set in motion the train of events that led to the change, the committee could not but have a few pangs at heart. That it was for the ultimate good of the whole blind population was of some comfort to them.
In the New Year’s Honours, Mr. Clarkson’s services to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association were recognised by the award of an M.B.E. The State Governor, Sir Charles Gairdner, consented to become Patron of the Western Australian Association.
In January the committee was informed that the Kew Centre had advanced as far as calling tenders for the kennels and for the Director’s house. Melbourne Apex had planted 200 trees around the site. In view of this, it should be possible to plan for completion of the whole project by about August.
The National Council meeting held in Melbourne on 17th, 18th and 19th March, 1962, closed at 1 p.m. on the first day, and re-opened in the afternoon as the Council of the newly incorporated Guide Dogs for the Blind Associations of Australia, incorporation having been achieved on 11th September, 1961. Election of office bearers proceeded and Mr. Clarkson advised that he would not be standing for re-election as President as he would be absent from Australia for about a year. He nominated Dr. Pryde of New South Wales and Mr. Potter seconded this. Dr. Pryde was elected President for 1962-63. Later in the conference, Dr. Pryde moved that Mr. Clarkson be appointed Vice-Patron and this was carried with acclamation. At this meeting, the name of the Kew Centre was slightly changed from that formerly agreed upon. It now became “The National Guide Dog Training Centre, Jack Davey Memorial.” The difference lay in changing the emphasis primarily from Jack Davey to the National aspect, by a simple transposition of wording.
As well as the wording of the name of the Centre, the wording of a bronze plaque for the wall was decided upon. This was a memorial plaque, the bequest of the/ late Mrs. Ruby Clarkson, and it commemorated the establishment of the guide dog movement by Western Australia in the following words:
A tribute to the vision, compassion, and enterprise of the people of Western Australia, who began the guide dog movement in Australia in 1952, and handed its skilled staff and equipment for central administration to a National Council in 1958, making possible this National Guide Dog Training Centre, built by the combined effort of all States.
Miss Betty Bridge, pioneer Trainer of Guide Dogs in Australia (1951-55), made possible the functioning of the Guide Dog Training Centre in Perth, whence, with the co-operation of the Associations of Apex Clubs, the movement spread through Australia.
The plaque was on show to the people of Western Australia in the window of Sandover’s, central Hay Street, for a week before it went on its way to Kew to be placed in position for the opening.
From the progress made with the buildings at Kew the National Council was now in a position to decide that the opening of the National Training Centre would take place on Saturday, 17th November, 1962, and plans for the ceremony were set in hand.
At the Melbourne conference the vexed question of salaries was at last settled. The salary paid to the Director was to be £2,000 per annum, subject to annual review, with a deduction of £150 per annum for house rental. The use of a Centre car was permitted. The Training Superintendent was to receive £1,650 per annum, less £150 house rental; and the Handler’s salary was £881, plus fifteen per cent as from 1st July.
Mrs. Elsie Mead’s tour of Australian capital cities with Beau commenced on 27th April and lasted to 20th June. A concession of fifty per cent of her fares was given by Ansett-ANA. In the course of her trip she gave sixty-five addresses, twenty-nine television appearances, and twenty-six press interviews. Fifty-four days of strain were a good deal for Mrs. Mead to endure, but they were even more for Beau, who was now an old dog. He had been with Mrs. Mead for ten years. He returned to Western Australia tired and unwell. Mrs. Mead reported that she had given him a fortnight’s rest, but that he had had to have an X-ray taken of a leg that was giving him trouble. It proved to be only rheumatism, but cataracts in the eyes were also suspected. The time was ripe, in fact, for Beau to retire from active service. Mrs. Mead herself was far from that stage. Another dog would be required for her; but, since she was sensitive for her old companion’s feelings, she thought it would be best if Beau were to live elsewhere so as not to be annoyed by the necessary activity she would share with a new guide dog. So the kindness of Mrs. Ken Mallabone, one of the Women’s Auxiliary members, provided Beau with a home. A senior citizen, if ever there was one, Beau still enjoyed the morning sun and the seat by the fire of an evening.
Unfortunately, the visit of Mrs. Mead to New South Wales, which was intended to do so much good in the way of publicity, was cashed in upon by Mrs. Phyllis Gration, who followed smartly in her footsteps and made a visit to New South Wales. The general public could not be expected to distinguish between the two promoters of guide dogs. The President of the National Council was asked to see what could be done to differentiate between the two visitations.
All through 1962 fund-raising continued energetically by the Western Australian Association, and particularly by the Women’s Auxiliary, of which Mrs. J. M. O’Donnell was now the President. The Puppy Boarding Scheme, now at a peak number of ninety pups, was tapered off, and plans were in hand for the transfer of dogs, equipment and staff from the Belmont Centre to the Kew Centre during August. It was realised that the loss of the Training Centre focus would be keenly felt by guide dog owners. Mrs. Mead said that in other States a link had been established by means of each committee member undertaking a personal tie-up with a specific number of guide dog owners, maintaining contact by telephone and offers of assistance where necessary. Everyone was in favour of this suggestion.
The committee meeting of 30th July said farewell to Mr. Holdsworth, who was leaving for Melbourne to take over the management of the Kew Centre. The Director expressed appreciation of the Western Australian committee’s understanding and co-operation with all features of his work, and recalled with deep feeling the warm and friendly reception accorded to himself and his wife on their arrival at Fremantle in 1955. The secretary, Miss P. Dodd, who was also moving to work at the Kew Centre, expressed regret at leaving the Perth office, where her relationship with the Association had been so pleasant and interesting. She was confident, however, that being part of the new National Centre would be equally interesting and inspiring. Miss Dodd’s place as Association secretary was taken by Mrs. Mead, who continued to work as Public Relations Officer as well.
Air transport of dogs and puppies to Kew began to take place in August. Pups had to be tested and accepted or rejected. Mr. Tom Blair was in charge of this. The domestic staff was gradually reduced. A farewell evening was held for training and clerical staff in the lesser hall of the Members’ Stand at the Claremont Showground, and was attended by guide dog owners, committee members, Women’s Auxiliary, Association members and friends. It was the end of a beginning that they celebrated, but the end was no mean one. All concerned could feel pride in what they had achieved in eleven years.
The opening of the National Training Centre at Kew took place as planned on 17th November, 1962. Owing to the fatal illness of his wife, Lady de l’Isle, the Governor General, Patron of the National body, was not able to perform the opening ceremony. This was done by the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable R. G. Menzies. The Western Australian Association was well represented at the function by the National Council Vice-Patron, Mr. S. Clarkson; by Dr. Cook and Mr. O’Neill, both foundation members; Mrs. Gibbon, the first honorary secretary; Mr. and Mrs. Mead and Miss Schell, guide dog owners; and the President, Mr. Potter.
In the following year, the R.S.P.C.A. made an offer to purchase the Belmont property for £12,500 cash, and this was accepted by the Western Australian Association on behalf of the National Council.
With the sale of the Belmont property and the transference of the Training Centre to Victoria, the work of the Western Australian Association changed from the training aspect, and reverted to fund-raising. Full circle had come round: the Association was back where it had started, but with the difference that it had pioneered the way and shown what could be done.
The eleven years that had passed since Arnold Cook had had the idea of setting up a little guide dog centre had been years of struggle culminating in a notable achievement. Committee members had come and gone, some to their last rest, as had several of the first guide dogs. Yet because of their efforts, here and there all over Australia there were blind people walking with confidence, going to their jobs, leading normal domestic lives. Ninety dogs had come out of the Belmont Centre. Ninety Australians now knew that they could give hope to others by their example. One of the most remarkable things about the whole movement was the enthusiasm and willingness to give up time and energy shown by all sorts of people. And if their sympathy was for the blind, their admiration was for the eager yet patient four-footed creatures that made the whole thing possible.
“One of the great social discoveries of our time,” the Prime Minister called the guide dog movement during his address at the opening of the Kew Centre, guide dogs and Braille having done more than any other factor to narrow the gulf between the sighted and the sightless. In this he was correct. But part of the discovery was that in our time, when so much is left to Government to do, this movement attracted to it men and women who freely devoted themselves and years of their lives to working hard for a few others less fortunate than they were. Critics of the guide dog scheme might say that to train a dog represented the tying-up of a great deal of capital cost for a short term (the span of a dog’s life being short), and produce figures to prove their point. But who can measure in figures the benefit to some particular person, man or woman, who has suffered the grievous blow of blindness and finds, with his dog, freedom of movement again, independence from the pitying help of others, unquestioning and uncomplaining love and companionship? If sight has gone, the reassurance of something else living has taken its place. A guide dog represents the interest and understanding of the many strangers who have helped, in one way or another, by money or by work, to set the guardian before the feet of the man.
Here is a list of GuideDog, date trained and their handlers trained at the WA center from 1952 to 1962.
- Beau 1952 Mrs. E. Mead, Maylands, WA.
- Terry 1952 Miss A. Green, Armadale, WA.
- Honey 1953 Mrs. E. Samphier, Mt. Lawley, WA.
- Susan 1954 Mr. W. Clitheroe, Como, WA.
- Gillian 1954 Mrs. P. Bennet, Tuart Hill, WA.
- Tanga 1954 Mr. C. Mead, Maylands, WA.
- Zealie 1955 Mr. D. Adams, Inverell, NSW.
- Betsy 1955 Mrs. N. Flecker, Floreat Park, WA.
- Cleo 1955 Miss H. Schell, Goomalling, WA.
- Leckie 1955 Miss J. Lowensohn, Maylands, WA.
- Teddy 1956 Mrs. E. Samphier, Mt. Lawley, WA.
- Julie 1956 Mrs. F. Mill, Rivervale, WA.
- Sheba 1956 Miss A. Green, Armadale, WA.
- Faith 1956 Mr. A. Clowes, Shenton Park, WA.
- Flash 1957 Mr. W. Hammond, Pemberton, WA.
- Nominee July 1957 Mr. B. Yound, Maylands, WA.
- Nell 1957 Mrs. P. Gration, Malyern, Vic.
- Nina 1957 Miss B. Gillott, Brightn, Vic.
- Esk 1957 Mr. P. Kendrick, Lithgow, NSW.
- Ruth 1957 Rev. J. Brookes, Unanderra, NSW.
- FAye 1957 Miss L. Ewart, Brighton, SA.
- Esta 1957 Miss J. Dickie, Towamba, NSW.
- Donna 1957 Mr. R. Cordin, Bulli, NSW.
- Amber 1957 Miss J. Penfold, Gordon, NSW.
- Dreena 1957 Mrs. L. Courtney- Bennett, Subiaco, WA.
- Linda 1958 Miss J. Ryan, Kew, Vic.
- Bobby 1958 Mr. A. Clarke, Beaumaris, Vic.
- Rumpus 1958 Mr. G. Grainger, Goodwood, Tas.
- Fame 1958 Rev. N. McCaw, Mascot, NSW.
- Roxy 1958 Miss R. Belleli, Parkholme, SA.
- Odette 1958 Mr. A McKay, Malvern, Vic.
- Prince 1958 Mr. L. Kowald, Oatley, NSW.
- Fanta 1958 Mrs. D. Nothling, Chadstone, Vic.
- Milia 1958 Mr. E. Hailes, Abbotsford, Vic.
- Andy 1958 Mr. C. Minns, Berwick, Vic.
- Lady 1958 Mr. T. Holloway, West Tamar, Tas.
- Wane 1958 Mrs. L. Arnold, West End, Qld.
- Shelley 1958 Mr. R. Best, Tolmie, Vic.
- Kista 1958 Mrs. D, Brockman, Ulverstone, Tas.
- Dale 1958 Mrs. B. Edwards, Mansfield, Vic.
- Jane 1959 Mr. A. Cook, Nedlands, WA.
- Faye 1959 Mr. J. Radford, Leederville, WA.
- Jelda 1959 Mrs. L. Courtney-Bennett, Subiaco, WA.
- Netta 1959 Miss G. Walker, South Perth, WA.
- Shann 1959 Mr. I. Cribb, Carlton, NSW.
- Bella 1959 Mrs. S. Whitford, Stanmore, NSW.
- Mandy 1959 Mr. K. Austin, Mt. Pleasant, WA.
- Kaska 1959 Mr. H. Norris, Canterbury, NSW.
- Wyn 1959 Mr. F. Gunsberger, Guildford, NSW.
- Ozelle 1959 Mr. K. Atherton, Collie, WA.
- Betsy 1959 Miss J. Ryan, North Kew, Vic.
- Bruce 1960 Miss P. Swincer, Linden Park, SA.
- Carlo 1960 Mr. J. Jack, Randwick, NSW.
- Penny 1960 Mrs. J. Kemble, Plympton, SA.
- Panda 1960 Mrs. G. Wright, Prospect, SA.
- Rusty 1960 Mr. A. Mapson, Victoria Park, WA.
- Sally 1960 Mr. G. Wright, Glenorchy, Tas.
- Major 1960 Mrs. A. Watson, Lockleys
- Dane 1960 Mr. W. Jagger, Inman Valley, SA.
- Charm 1960 Miss E. McKenzie, Lane Cove, NSW.
- gemma 1960 Miss M. Kinnaird, West Perth, WA.
- Marla 1960 (Mrs. McGillien) Mrs. R. Solomon, St. Kilda, Vic.
- Tessa 1960 Mrs. E. Dowsett, Stockton, NSW.
- Halda 1960 Mr. H. Morris, Townsville, Qld.
- Grant 1960 Mrs. J. Wilson, Inglewood, WA.
- Norry 1960 Mr. W. Wyatt, South Caulfield, Vic.
- Marie 1960 Mr. J. Thompson, Dapto, NSW.
- Glen 1961 Mr. H. Norris, Lakemba, NSW.
- Danny 1961 Mr. J. Wight, Prospect, SA.
- Delle 1961 Miss J. Fraser, Auckland, NZ.
- Pasca 1961 Miss J. Lowensohn, Dianella, WA.
- Dawn 1961 Mrs. A. Von Francken-Sierstorpff, WA.
- Fay 1961 Mr. D. Adams, Inverell, NSW.
- Sheba 1961 Miss R. Graham, Mona Vale, NSW.
- Rena 1961 Mr. M. Penn, Woodville West, SA.
- Roley 1961 Mr. A. Herbert, Ryde, NSW.
- Kola 1961 Mr. P. Samways, Auckland, NZ.
- Kaye 1961 Miss D. Palmer, Forbes, NSW.
- Perrie 1961 Mr. A. Hume, Muswellbrook, NSW.
- Amber 1961 Miss M. Kinnaird, Bentley, WA.
- Nicky 1961 Mr. R. Brennan, Blair Athol, SA.
- Beauty 1962 Mrs. F. Trait, Inglewood, WA.
- Nalda 1962 (Miss J. Diggelmann) Mrs. Duffield, Lithgow,NSW.
- Beryl 1962 Mr. W. Clitheroe, Como, WA.
- Banner 1962 Mr. J. Heereman, Armadale, WA.
- Bruno 1962 Mr. P. Beatty, Greenacre, NSW.
- Jalda 1962 Mr. W. Mathews, Narwee, NSW.
- Bob 1962 Mr. W. McKenzie, Annandale, NSW.
- Princess 1962 Mrs. J. Spence, Meltham, WA.
- Dale 1962 Mrs. E. Coverley, North Perth, WA.