Aboriginal elder Aunty Mary Hooker is encouraging people in New South Wales and the ACT with vision loss to contact Guide Dogs NSW/ACT as soon as possible to avoid trips, falls, isolation and depression.
Her warning comes after the release of a Guide Dogs Australia survey that found one in four people waited more than 10 years before seeking help.
About half of all respondents to the survey had waited more than two years between diagnosis and asking for help.
Aunty Mary is helping Guide Dogs Australia launch a new national campaign, Don’t Delay, Seek Help Today, on International White Cane Day on October 15.
A new video and brochure outlining the range of services offered by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT will be launched as part of the campaign to help people better understand how the organisation can support them.
Aunty Mary, who is a Bundjalung woman, lost her sight to diabetes and waited six months to contact Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.
“During that time I had completely lost my independence. I felt isolated and became depressed,” she said.
“Within two days of contacting Guide Dogs, they came to my home to begin my orientation and mobility training. That’s when I knew I could rely on them; that they were in it for the long-haul.”
A mobility specialist from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT — which doesn’t just train guide dogs but also helps with other devices such as canes and electronic devices — spent many hours training with Aunty Mary.
“The first thing they helped me do was get out of the house, cross the road and pick up my grandkids from school on my own. Being able to do that, just like any other grandparent, gave me back my confidence straight away,” she said.
Aunty Mary now travels independently around her community with her long cane, which is decorated in the colours of the Aboriginal flag.
For more information about the services offered by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT visit www.guidedogs.com.au or call 9414 9300.