Dog Guide Handlers Australia (DGHA) is a national association which provides a voice for Australians who are blind or vision impaired, and who are dog guide handlers.

DGHA strives to foster, represent, promote, enhance and protect the interests of Australians who are blind or vision impaired, and who are dog guide handlers.

Photo in Memory of DGHA founding member, Judith Killen, with her dog guide Elton, showing the city of Perth, Western Australia in the background.

Legislation opens more doors for assistance dogs

Published: 27th of October 2015 Community Health & Wellness Queensland Government

People with disability will benefit from improved access and streamlined services after the passing of the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Amendment Bill in state Parliament.

Disability Services Minister Coralee O'Rourke said the Amendment Bill had improved the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009 by closing gaps identified during its review.

“Guide, hearing and assistance dogs are special working dogs trained to allow people with disability to get out in the community and be more independent,” Mrs O'Rourke said.

“They perform a range of tasks that help people with various disabilities in their daily lives, such as calling for lifts, picking up parcels, turning on lights and paying cashiers.

“I've had the opportunity to see many of these working dogs in action and the impact of their role can't be underestimated.

“We're committed to improving the lives of people with disability and we expect the changes to this legislation will do just that.”

Changes under the Amendment Bill include expanding the access rights to alternative handlers who may be required to assist a primary handler to control a certified dog (for example, a child with disability) and authorising trainers and training institutions to issue handler identity cards.

The Bill has removed the need for handlers to prove a disability when renewing identity cards and restrictions have been lifted on the certification of dogs belonging to shareholders, directors and employees of training institutions.

The Bill will also equip departmental authorised officers with greater powers to investigate any complaints made and enforce compliance with the Act.

Changes are expected to come into effect in 2016.

Minister O'Rourke said a communication strategy had been developed in partnership with industry stakeholders to raise awareness of the Act.

“Under Queensland law these specially-trained and certified dogs have the same access rights in public places as everyone else,” she said.

“This includes shops, hospitality venues, rental and holiday accommodation, taxis, aircraft, public transport and entertainment and sporting facilities.

“I want business owners and people in the broader community to be aware of these rights.”

Minister for Disability Services, Minister for Seniors and Minister Assisting the Premier on North Queensland The Honourable Coralee O'Rourke

First Dog Guide Handlers Australia Conference

A first in Australia! In 2014 on the weekend of 6th and 7th September, Dog Guide Handlers Australia held its first ever conference. Held in Adelaide at the Grand Chifley, the conference was a fantastic success bringing Dog Guide Handlers, their dog guides, instructors and speakers from around Australia together, to participate in a range of workshops and engage in some great networking and peer support activity.

Large group photo of conference attendees with their dog guides.

During the conference dinner, the inaugural Dog Guide Handlers Australia Judith Killen Golden Harness Award was presented. This award is presented to a person for their outstanding efforts in fostering, representing, promoting, enhancing and protecting the interests of Australians who are blind or vision impaired and who use a dog guide.

Photo of the Golden Harness Award.

Dog Guide Handlers Australia would like to congratulate Rowena Dowling, the first ever recipient of the Judith Killen Golden Harness Award.

Peter Greco from the RPH Adelaide radio show "Focal Point" interviewed Rowina on her receiving the award. Rowina's interview is about 10 minutes in. To listen go to Focal Point

Group photo of conference attendees.

Episode 366 of the Blind Citizens Australia radio show, New Horizons, featured Joyce Jones, an attendee at the DGHA 2014 conference, and Rowena Dowling, speaking on recieving her Golden Harness Award.

to listen go to New Horizons episode 366

Dog Guide Handlers Australia would like to thank Guide Dogs Australia, Seeing Eye dogs Australia, the Royal Society for the Blind, Naturopaws, Blue Print Studios and BM PetSnax (supplying dog treats) for their support of the 2014 Dog Guide Handlers Australia conference.


DGHA is an independent association of dog guide handlers, and is not affiliated with any dog guide school.


DGHA draws on the experiences and varied knowledge of its members, to provide peer support, advocacy and information to dog guide handlers throughout Australia.


Dog Guide Handlers Australia was formed in August 2009 by four passionate people who were inspired by similar groups which exist in other countries.

DGHA was registered as an incorporated association in January 2011.

DGHA does not have a physical office, and we have no paid staff.
The DGHA Committee is a group of dedicated volunteers who meet regularly via teleconference.

Some of the issues we are advocating for include:


Dog Guide Handlers Australia is now on Facebook, and Twitter. please use the social networking links below to participate in our online discussion forums, post comments, and keep informed of upcoming events and members meetings.