In the mid 1990’s Craig and Tracey Murray (Dog Trainers) were approached friends to see if they would be able to train a dog to indicate when their baby was going to have a seizure. Their baby was having multiple seizures a day and the family were trying to do anything and everything they could to help their child. They had heard about dogs in the USA which had been trained for persons with disabilities that have seizures and they were hoping that Craig and Tracey could train a dog to help their child. Assistance dogs were pretty much unheard of within Australia at that time. By the time Craig and Tracey researched the required information needed to train a dog, it was too late, and the little baby had lost his battle. This was heartbreaking but it only served to inspire Craig and Tracey to further their education into Assistance Dogs.
Craig & Tracey stumbled through training dogs and placing them with persons with disabilities as best they knew how until they were able to afford to send Craig to NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services) in the USA in 2002. This formal education was sought after more so to teach Craig how to partner a dog with a disabled handler. It’s a totally different experience to transition a dog across to a person with a disability than it is to do the initial training of the dog. The world of disability is so broad so each assistance dog must be trained to the individual needs of the handler. Having this learning experience enabled Craig and Tracey to provide a much more individualised transition for their clients.
Fast forward and the Qld. Government bought in the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog Act 2009. This Act encompassed all three types of service dogs under the one Act – Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs and Assistance Dogs. Craig and Tracey were part of the advisory stakeholder group for the government whilst they were constructing the legislation and were in fact the first Assistance Dog Trainers certified within Australia.
At that time, you could apply to gain certification as either an individual trainer or a training organisation (charity). Both Craig and Tracey applied for certification as individual trainers and remained that way until they founded Empower Assistance Dogs in 2016. By founding the Charity, they have been able to grow their services to help more people by implementing a breeding program, puppy raising program, school raising and training program, therapy dog team and in 2020 they have commenced a new ‘Owner Coached Assistance Dog Program’.
In 2009 the Queensland Government introduced the new Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog Act which endeavours to work in with the Federal Disability Discrimination Act and it's amendments. This means for Guide, Hearing or Assistance Dog owners that regardless of whether the dog was professionally trained or owner trained, all dogs and handlers will have to go through and pass a Public Access Test and ensure their dog has been trained to do three tasks that assist the handler. Under the Act, Trainers have to be Certified through the government, and then they can carry out the Public Access Test on dogs and handlers. A dog and handler whom have passed will be issued an identification card and special badge for the dog's jacket or harness. Empower assistance dogs now has six government Certified Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog Trainers. We were the very first individual trainers to pass and we were the first organisation to be certified to train all three types of service dogs (Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs) and therefore we are able to certify dogs and handlers.
AUSTRALIAN LEGISLATION ON ASSISTANCE DOGS
Disability Discrimination Act: Part 1, Section 9 covers the rights of people accompanied by an assistance dog.
Contact Details for Human Rights Organisations
Below are the contact details for the relevant human rights organisations should you have any questions regarding the State specific laws or rights of Assistance Dogs.
Australian Human Rights Commission
www.humanrights.gov.au/about/contact-us – (02) 9284 9600
Attorney General’s Department
www.ag.gov.au/About/Pages/Contactus.aspx – (02) 6141 6666
NEW SOUTH WALES – New South Wales Public Service Commission
www.psc.nsw.gov.au/contact-us – (02) 9272 6000
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY – Australian Capital Territory Human Rights Commission
www.hrc.act.gov.au/contact-us – (02) 6205 2222
QUEENSLAND – Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland
https://www.qhrc.qld.gov.au/contactus – 1300 130 670 (state wide)
NORTHERN TERRITORY – Northern Territory Anti Discrimination Commission
https://adc.nt.gov.au/contacts.html – 1800 813 846
TASMANIA – Equal Opportunity Tasmania
www.equalopportunity.tas.gov.au/contact_us – 1300 305 062
VICTORIA – Victorian Equal Opportunities & Human Rights Commission
www.humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au/home/about-us/contact-us – 1300 292 153
SOUTH AUSTRALIA – South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission
www.eoc.sa.gov.au/contact – (08) 8207 1977
WESTERN AUSTRALIA – Western Australia Equal Opportunities Commission
http://www.eoc.wa.gov.au/contact-us – (08) 9216 3900