Children touching a large tactile globe and reading braille volumes, Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind, Melbourne, c1950
Female staff with children at the Victor Maxwell Nursery, Royal Blind Society of NSW, Chester Street, Woollahra, Sydney, 1955
Etching of a man playing accordion and wearing a sign reading “BLIND”, c1800s. Entitled “City of Melbourne” solicitor by the State Library of Victoria. Image courtesy of State Library of Victoria La Trobe Collection.
People seated at an early meeting of the Association for the Advancement of the Blind (later VAF) in a large hall, c1900s
Staff members packing braille volumes into picnic hampers for postage to library users, Braille Library, Melbourne, 1940s
Children seated at desks in classroom at the Asylum and School for the Blind (later RVIB), Melbourne, late 1800s Teacher Sue Coull playing keyboards whilst a male student plays a drum as part of a music therapy class at RVIB school, Melbourne, c1990s
Male workers constructing mats at RVIB workshop, Melbourne, late 1800s Man using computer with adaptive technology, RBS, Sydney, c2004
Residents sitting on the lawns of Australia’s first nursing home for people who are blind. “Woodburn”, VAF, Brighton, Melbourne, c1920s Man assisting woman with lighting the stove as part of the services of RBS, Sydney, c1990-2000s
Tilly Aston (second from right) reading braille to four young girls in gardens, Melbourne, c1900s Two female volunteers or workers transcribing braille at the Braille Library, Melbourne, c1920s
Early braille typewriter known as “The Visible” which is part of our heritage collection Chief Librarian Minnie Crabb with the braille printing press she invented in 1934, Braille Library, Melbourne, 1930s Computer production of braille, RBS, 1980s
Four women and man looking at early Clark and Smith talking book machine, RVIB, 1939 Dame Mary Gilmore recording a book for the Blind Book Society, Sydney, c1950s Chief Librarian Rose Blustein of Vision Australia Library with the first Australian talking book produced on CD, Elizabeth Jolley’s “The Orchard Thieves”, 1996-7
A man batting whilst being watched by onlookers at the first interstate blind cricket match, Kooyong, Melbourne 1928 Jayson Hanrahan water skiing, Melbourne, 2003
Helen Keller meeting three men, who are probably RBS staff, Sydney. 1948
The first patient being assessed at Australia’s first low vision clinic, VAF, Melbourne, 1972 Hazel Hawke visiting 3RPH radio station, VAF, 1980s Two ladies reading the newspaper into microphone, studios, RVIB, Melbourne, 1980s
Brass band standing in front of RVIB, St Kilda Road, Melbourne, 1897. The band was made up of students and workers from RVIB. Sir Hubert Opperman seated on an exercise bicycle (left) with two other men at the opening of a new Geelong centre, VAF, 1973 Map of NSW, ACT and Victoria showing our geographic reach. 2005
3 women and 3 men dressed in harlequin costumes who were part of the official Association for the Advancement of the Blind (renamed VAF) concert party, 1920s 3 women posing in ball gowns. According to the program for the Belles of the Ball photo exhibition held in 1996 to celebrate 60 years of the Black & White Committee, the women were &quot;White Ball Flower sellers” promoting the inaugural RBS White Ball, Sydney, 1936 Female performers sashay down the aisle watched by an audience at RVIB Carols by Candlelight, Melbourne, 1962
Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Approximately late 1800s Sydney Industrial Blind Institution, William Street, Sydney. Approximately late 1800s Home for the Blind, Association for the Advancement of the Blind, Bennett Street, Long Gully, Bendigo, c1927. This was Australia’s first regional nursing home specifically established for people who were blind or vision impaired.
Four men on a quadricycle outside the entrance of RVIB, St Kilda Road, Melbourne, 1888
Lilly and her mother, Keisa, reading a braille book, Melbourne, 2004
Angelique with her mother, Margaret. Angelique is vision impaired whilst Margaret is blind. Sydney, 2004
1. Come on a journey back in time…. <ul><li>Did you know Vision Australia has over 400 collective years of making a difference to the lives of Australians who are blind or vision impaired? </li></ul>
2. We’ve come so far.. <ul><li>Vision Australia formed in 2004 following the merge of Royal Blind Society (RBS), Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind (RVIB) and Vision Australia Foundation (VAF) </li></ul>Together, we have achieved many of the most significant milestones in the history of Australians who are blind or vision impaired. This presentation celebrates our successes as we look towards our shared future.
3. What was it like to be blind in 1800? <ul><li>Being blind or vision impaired in the 1800s was very difficult. Many people lived in absolute poverty. </li></ul>There were no employment services, voting rights, libraries or schools and discrimination was rife. It took the blindness community and organisations such as ours to fight to achieve these fundamental rights and services.
4. No vision, no vote, no way! In the 1800s voting was only available for people who could write with a pen. This deprived people who were blind or vision impaired of one of the most basic human rights. We were pivotal in achieving the first voting rights for Australians who were blind in 1902 through the Association for the Advancement of the Blind, later named VAF. Initially confined to federal elections, state rights soon followed.
5. Leading Australia and the world <ul><li>Abolishing a discriminatory 400 pound bond to travel interstate. Previously people who were blind faced humiliating scenes at border crossings. </li></ul>Our predecessors also played a significant role in: <ul><li>Introducing a pension and travel concessions for people who were blind or vision impaired. </li></ul><ul><li>Obtaining free postage of braille, a world first! </li></ul>
6. The first education services… <ul><li>It wasn’t only rights that were non-existent. Until the late 1800s Australian children who were blind had no access to education. </li></ul>In 1866, we pioneered the nation’s first schools for children who were blind through the Victorian Asylum and School for the Blind (later RVIB). In 1898, the Sydney Industrial Blind Institution (renamed RBS) began home teaching of braille across NSW. Today services focus on greater integration although specialised teaching is still available.
7. Getting a job <ul><li>Another major challenge faced by people who were blind in the 1800s was lack of employment, generating poverty and preventing independence. </li></ul>Australia’s first vocational training for people with a vision impairment started with basket and mat making at RVIB in 1867. In 1880 training began in Sydney through RBS. Now we provide assistance to enable people with a vision impairment to work in fields they choose.
8. Providing homes <ul><li>Times have changed. Our modern philosophy is to equip people to live independently in their own homes, while providing training and advice to nursing homes and hostels. </li></ul>Many Australians who were blind were homeless in the 1800s. Circumstances were desperate. VAF established the first home in Melbourne in 1909. Regional homes and services soon followed. From the late 1800s, RBS and RVIB supplied accommodation for some workers at their factories in Sydney and Melbourne.
9. Access to books This prevented Australia’s first blind tertiary student, Tilly Aston, from completing her university studies. Frustrated but determined, Tilly established Australia’s first braille library in Melbourne in 1894 through the Victorian Association of Braille Writers (later part of VAF). In 1905, RBS founded a braille library in Sydney. Twenty years later, RVIB opened another library in Melbourne. In 2000 the libraries of RBS and RVIB merged to form our National Information and Library Service (NILS). VAF library joined in 2003. Few braille materials were available in the 1800s.
10. Moving with the times… Initially braille was produced using a hand frame and stylus. Using this method it took half an hour to write one page. In 1981, RBS pioneered the first computer production of braille in Australia. Then in 1990, volunteer Betty Smith worked with RBS to develop the world’s first computerised braille production of text combined with scientific and mathematic symbols. Production speeds increased dramatically with the invention of the first braille printing press by Minnie Crabb, Chief Librarian of the Braille Library (later VAF) in 1934. Braille typewriters, introduced in 1892, were much faster.
11. Introducing talking books The Blind Book Society, later an auxiliary of RBS, opened the first recording studios for Australian literature in 1954. In 1960, RBS and RVIB united to set up studios for copying imported talking books. In 1996, VAF created Australia’s first talking book on CD, Elizabeth Jolley’s ‘The Orchard Thieves’. In future our books will be produced using a digital format that revolutionises indexes and searches. The first talking book machines were imported by RVIB in 1934. In the early days these were very chunky and difficult to transport.
12. Let’s play….. <ul><li>Today our organisation equips people who are vision impaired to pursue their recreational interests. These can range from art to mountaineering and water skiing. </li></ul>Our organisation has also been innovative in creating recreational opportunities for clients. Blind cricket began in Australia. The first interstate match was played in 1928 with money for the ground raised through VAF. The game is now played internationally.
13. A ground-breaking visit <ul><li>Deaf, blind and non-verbal, American Helen Keller fiercely advocated greater rights, respect and understanding for people with disabilities. </li></ul>In 1948, she visited Australia for six months at the invitation of RBS, touring schools, nursing homes and libraries for people with vision impairment across NSW and Victoria. Helen shocked her hosts when she said that services for blind Australians were substandard. Her comments led to a shift away from a charitable model to one of empowerment and independence, reflected in our current mission and vision.
14. Rising to meet the need In 1924 RBS transmitted the first national broadcast of concerts and speeches by people who were blind. Then in 1981, 3RPH became the first radio station in Australia for people unable to read standard print. VAF assumed management of the station in 1983. We have also pioneered the production of talking newspapers, starting at RVIB in 1983. As people’s needs changed with the times, we were ready to respond. Australia’s first low vision clinic was founded in Melbourne in 1972 by VAF. In 1977, RBS established the first low vision clinics in NSW.
15. Spreading out... <ul><li>Regional auxiliaries were formed from the 1920s to raise funds and community support for locally based services. In Geelong, world renowned cyclist Sir Hubert Opperman was a keen supporter! </li></ul>Ensuring that services were not limited geographically was a priority from the very early days… The first contact with many regions was through the choir, orchestra and band of RVIB, which was touring as early as 1873. Concerts were an excellent way of raising funds and providing publicity. All of our organisations have played a vital role in the regional expansion of our services. Today Vision Australia has branches across ACT, NSW and Victoria.
16. Making it all possible <ul><li>The White Ball, later known as the Black and White Ball, has been a highlight of Sydney’s social calendar since 1937, and a fundraising success for RBS. </li></ul>Over the years we have had to be innovative and creative in how we raise funds to support our services. Carols by Candlelight began in 1938 and in 1949 RVIB became one of its main benefactors. Twenty years later RVIB took over its management. Today Carols is one of the most watched TV programs of the Christmas season. VAF began holding concerts in 1913. These proved to be very popular.
17. A common purpose <ul><li>Royal Blind Society of NSW was first called the Industrial Blind Institution. It later became the Sydney Industrial Blind Institution and the Royal Sydney Industrial Blind Institution. </li></ul>Throughout our history, the desire to make a positive difference to the lives of Australians who are blind or vision impaired has been fundamental to us all. This has been despite many changes in our philosophies, services and names. Prior to 1999, Vision Australia Foundation was known as both the Association for the Advancement for the Blind and the Association for the Blind. The Braille and Talking Book Library merged with VAF in 1990. It had also been known as the Braille Library and the Victorian Association of Braille Writers. Until 1891 Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind was named the Victorian Asylum and School for the Blind. At the time, “asylum” meant a safe house or place of refuge.
18. Looking back, moving forward <ul><li>Throughout our long history, we have consistently worked towards greater independence and equality for people with a vision impairment. </li></ul>It’s time to reflect proudly on our successes as we enter a new era of achievement and collaboration as Vision Australia.
19. Creating history today <ul><li>Our history of achievement continues today. Recently we have championed: </li></ul><ul><li>E-voting for people who are blind or vision impaired to vote independently. </li></ul><ul><li>Photo ID cards for non drivers. </li></ul><ul><li>Digitisation of library books. </li></ul><ul><li>Early literacy programs like the ‘Feelix’ pre-school library and ‘Dots for Tots’. </li></ul><ul><li>Phone access to the news through ‘Today’s News Now.’ </li></ul>
20. A brighter future <ul><li>Combining our skills and resources means we can make more of a difference than ever before. </li></ul>Vision Australia is now the largest blindness organisation in Australia with a base of 38,000 clients, 965 staff and 3,260 volunteers. We’re ready to step into a future that is full of possibilities.