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Early Beginnings

We trace our origins to the foundation of the Ladies’ Braille Society in 1913. The Society quickly moved beyond the simple task of transcribing Braille literature, beginning home teaching, social work and advocacy shortly after the First World War, and establishing the Rest Home for the Aged Blind at Victoria Park in 1923.

Throughout the Depression it continued its work in spite of almost overwhelming obstacles. By the end of the Second World War it was running a major social service.

In 1951 Australia’s first Guide Dog training school was established in Perth, a significant event that had a nation-wide impact.

In 1977, the Braille Society and Guide Dogs for the Blind formally merged and became the Association for the Blind of WA. By the 1980s, thanks to boldly innovative thinking in arenas like recreation, orientation and mobility, early intervention, technology and library services, the Association was providing the most sophisticated set of resources for people who were vision impaired in the State.

The First Australian Guide Dog

Australia’s first Guide Dog Training School was established in Perth in 1951. The first working Guide Dog in Australia was Dreena, who was brought to Perth from England in 1950 by Doctor Arnold Cook.

Dr Cook had become blind at the age of eighteen with the eye condition retinitis pigmentosa. He learned Braille and then studied at the University of Western Australia (UWA) where he gained a degree in Arts, majoring in Economics, and later gained a doctorate from Harvard University. He was awarded a Hackett Scholarship and studied at the London School of Economics.

On his return to Western Australia, Dr Cook lectured in Economics at UWA and established Australia’s first Guide Dog organisation in Perth in 1951. Within 12 months, the first Australian trained Guide Dog, Beau, was working with its owner Elsie Mead.

Ten years later a national organisation was established and a Guide Dog and Mobility Training Centre was opened in Kew, Melbourne, in 1962.

The Perron Centre

In September 2007, we took a historic step when we officially opened our Centre of Excellence. In April 2010 the Centre was officially named The Perron Centre, in honour of Mr L.S. (Stan) Perron and family, who has contributed generously to the Association over a period of almost 50 years. The Perron Centre is located in Victoria Park, on the site first purchased by the Association in 1922, and from which our services have operated for 88 years.

Through the very generous support of individuals, small and large companies, governments and Lotterywest, we provide our services to the Western Australian community from one of the most innovative buildings of its kind in the world.

In 2002, the Association for the Blind realised that its challenge was to shape the future of the organisation. This meant providing relevant and integrated services based on strong research, as well as making the most of recent technological advances to help clients lead fulfilling lives in a rapidly changing world.

The idea of the new centre was born in 2004, and the Association launched its Building our Vision Campaign to raise funds to construct the Centre of Excellence at Victoria Park. As a result of generous support from all sectors of the Western Australian community, and from both the Australian and Western Australian Governments, the Association raised $14.5 million (to May 07).

We sincerely thank those individuals who led the Building our Vision Campaign and the hundreds of donors who have worked with us to achieve our goal.

Find out more about our Building our Vision Campaign Leaders and Donors (doc, 708kb)