Looking back, looking forward…
Richard Anderson joined the Board of Guide Dogs Queensland in August 1980 and has spent the past 40 years committed to improving the lives of people with vision loss and blindness. To commemorate Richard’s 40 years of voluntary service, including 30 years as President, we reflect on his memories, the special moments, and what is ahead for Guide Dogs.
Q: You’ve been a big part of the Guide Dogs community for a long time. Where did it begin?
A: A retired friend was volunteering as a collector and asked me if I could get involved and help Guide Dogs. I joined the Board of Guide Dogs Queensland in August 1980. It was a great experience for me as a relatively young person starting out in professional practice and business. I learnt so much more from my much more experienced fellow Board members. Here we are, 40 years later.
Q: Did you have a personal connection to Guide Dogs that made you want to get involved?
A: I didn’t have any individual person in my life who had vision loss, none of my friends or family…but, it seemed like a really worthwhile cause to be involved with.
Q: What was Guide Dogs like back in 1980 when you first joined the Board?
A: In those days, Guide Dogs Queensland was a fundraising organisation, but did not have responsibility for delivering services. Money was raised to support Queenslanders but all the services, breeding and training dogs, and orientation and mobility services were all managed from Kew in Melbourne.
Q: You become President of Guide Dogs Queensland in 1990, and some big changes for the organisation happened soon after. What was that time like?
A: In the early 1990s we took over the full delivery of services to people here in Queensland. In 1995, when we were able to set up the Bald Hills site, we could also look after our won breeding and training of dogs.
Q: You mentioned the development of the Bald Hills site. Was that a significant moment in Guide Dogs Queensland’s history?
A: Before we opened the current Breeding and Training Centre, we were based at Wharf Street in Brisbane CBD. The land at Bald Hills was proposed to be a service station and was, and still is, the ideal combination of being close to the city but also in a beautiful rural setting.
Q: Reflecting on the past 40 years of your involvement, and the past 60 years of Guide Dogs Queensland, what do you consider the greatest achievements and successes?
A: I’m really proud of the community supporting Guide Dogs. Over the many years I’ve been involved, we have had loyal donors and sponsors, hard-working volunteers (now more than 700), and extremely dedicated staff who provide the best support and care for more than 1100 clients every year.
Q: Sixty years of Guide Dogs Queensland is quite an achievement. What’s next?
A: We are continuously growing and expanding our services, and supporting more Oueenslanders who are living with vision loss. What was once a purely fundraising organisation is now an organisation breeding and raining guide dogs, providing orientation and mobility services all around the state, and going that extra step to support our clients through a range of services and Programs. The next 60 years will bring even more services and support, and that’s what I’m really excited about.