HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [6.31 pm]: Members would be aware that I have shown a great deal of interest in what has been happening with guide dogs in Western Australia. Last year, I hosted the guide dogs here at Parliament House. I thank all the members who showed such a keen interest in coming along to have their pictures taken with the guide dogs. It was principally for the purpose of raising awareness of the protocols around how we use guide dogs. It was a good opportunity for people to meet particularly the people from Guide Dogs Western Australia. While we were there, Guide Dogs WA presented a business case that it wanted the opportunity to pursue in order to expand its breeding program. I will say a little bit more about that in a moment. One of the things that Guide Dogs WA was particularly happy about was, at the gathering out in the courtyard, there was the opportunity to corner the Premier. At that point, the business case was hurriedly put forward to him. He had a photo taken with the dogs and they were pleased they had the opportunity to do that. I advised Guide Dogs WA to follow that up and to send the more fulsome business case to the government and other parties to make them aware of what it was asking for. It is really quite important because there is a shortage of guide dogs in this state.

Guide dogs are for people who are vision impaired or blind, but also those who need dogs to assist with dementia care, autism or post-traumatic stress disorder. There is a whole range of reasons why people need these highly trained dogs. One of the things they do is take the character of the dog and train it according to the best fit for them. The problem is that we have not been, to date, breeding our own guide dogs in Western Australia. We rely on them coming from sometimes New Zealand, but most of the time from over east. COVID has posed a particular challenge in ensuring that we have been able to receive sufficient puppies here. Part of the problem has also been that we do not have enough people who are specifically trained in how to train guide dogs. There is a worldwide shortage of guide dog trainers. Guide Dogs WA also want to ensure there is an opportunity to be able to have top-level genetic expertise to help inform any future breeding program. Effectively, Guide Dogs WA proposed that the government invest $5 million, which it would match with $5 million from its own donations that it works hard to be able to pull together, in order to see whether we could develop a world-class breeding program in Western Australia and also develop world-class guide dog trainers. This went out to the election. Unsurprisingly, the Greens said it was very supportive of such an initiative. It is something we think should be a priority for government funding. In this election, lots of people were talking about job opportunities and this initiative would create jobs. The Nationals WA also said that, if elected, it would support such a business case. It was very pleasing to see, during the course of the election campaign, that the Australian Labor Party also came out and said that if it won government, it would fund this business case. Members may not be aware, but the ALP did win government.

I stand here as someone who will not be continuing in this place, who has a very keen interest in this area, to ask members to ensure that this particular election promise is followed through. Specifically, I am asking you, Hon Kyle McGinn, as the recently minted Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Disability Services, to please make sure that this is a priority and it is followed through on. I ask this because members are aware this issue is really close to my heart because my youngest son is rapidly going blind and will need a guide dog himself someday. That was the path that led me to become informed around this. I say this also because Hon Kyle McGinn is a friend of my family and I know he will take his responsibilities very seriously as the parliamentary secretary for disability.

This should absolutely be a good news story. I hope it will be followed through on. If there is any suggestion it will not be followed through, I ask opposition members to please raise merry hell about it. I am going to assume that it will be funded and will be in the upcoming budget. It is something that members should feel really positive about. If members ever get a chance to go to a guide dog graduation—I have been to several—they are pretty fun and very emotional. It is a wonderful thing to be able to support. Guide dogs support not only people who are vision impaired or blind, like my son, but so many other people in our community benefit from the wonderful work that guide dogs are able to do. It makes people who are otherwise isolated become not isolated; they are able to be in the community and live full lives. It is such a wonderful opportunity for a whole range of people in our community. Madam President, it is a good news story, but I am yet to make sure that it is followed through on. I feel quite hopeful that it will be the case. I look forward to when this program is well and truly up and running.




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