MCEC hosts Graduation ceremony for Victoria's Guide Dogs
In honour of the Guide Dogs Victoria class of 2020, giant Guide Dog mascot Goldie - who stands at 3.5m tall - was dressed in a celebratory mortar board and gown outside the Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre (MCEC) on the morning of Friday 11 December 2020.
Goldie represented the 74 dogs who have graduated this past year, going on to make an incredible contribution and difference to the lives of Victorians – either as Guide Dogs supporting people with low vision or blindness, as Companion Dogs, Ambassadors Dogs or other meaningful careers.
With each dog taking $50,000 to breed, raise and train, Goldie’s presence is also a nod of thanks to the many people involved in the Guide Dog journey – from Volunteer Puppy Raisers, to donors, corporate partners, and Guide Dog training staff.
Karen Hayes, CEO of Guide Dogs Victoria said of this year’s celebrations, “Like schools and universities across the state, Guide Dogs Victoria has always delighted in gathering its graduates for an annual celebration. Unfortunately our usual event was unable to go ahead due to COVID-19 restrictions, but we were not going to let that stop us celebrating the amazing contribution of our heroes of 2020.”
“Guide Dogs Victoria is no stranger to adapting and working around the difficulties posed by COVID-19. Our priority this year has been to continue delivering services to people with low vision or blindness despite the many challenges,” Karen Hayes added.
Madeline Seiter has been a Guide Dogs Victoria Client for over two decades and received her third Guide Dog, Zelda, in February this year:
“Zelda has been a huge support for me this year, particularly as I was living alone during lockdown. After her graduation just last year, it’s been amazing how quickly we’ve been able to build that bond and trust in one another. As Melbourne has opened up in the last few months, it’s been amazing to appreciate her skill level in navigating tricky situations,” she said.
MCEC was chosen as the location for Goldie to stand sentinel in recognition of a special partnership that saw Guide Dogs Victoria welcomed into the centre to continue training Clients and Guide Dogs while it was closed to the public during lockdowns.
“Thanks to Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Guide Dogs Victoria has been able to continue to provide essential services to Clients and train life-changing Guide Dogs during this lockdown. We know that our Clients have felt significant isolation and an increasing loss of confidence, as the restrictions continued. We are incredibly grateful to MCEC for working creatively with us to get people back on track to be confident and independent again,” said Karen Hayes.
“It is fabulous to have a space like MCEC where Clients and our dogs can still train ‘real world’ experiences, despite restrictions. They can practice navigating escalators, elevators, stairs, and chairs to name a few examples, but in an environment that is safe, contained and controlled,” Karen Hayes added.
Peter King, CEO Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre said of the partnership, “In these unpredictable times we need to pull together as a community and be resourceful to help those who need our support.”
Karen Hayes concluded, “Guide Dogs Victoria extends our thanks to the entire Guide Dogs community who have been instrumental in helping us continue our vital work during this trying year. Without your support we cannot continue to provide services that enhance the freedom and independence of Victorians living with low vision or blindness.”
“We’d also like to say an extra special thanks to Craig Fison who stepped in at the drop of a hat to make and donate Goldie’s mortar board cap,” she said.
To support the work of Guide Dogs Victoria, including the $50,000 it costs to breed, raise and train a Guide Dog, visit https://www.guidedogsvictoria.com.au/get-involved/donations/