Rhiannon and her seeing eye dog, Kingy, live in Fairy Meadow. Rhiannon is a true local, growing up in the northern suburb of Bulli. Currently Rhiannon and Kingy attend the Wollongong Campus of TAFE Illawarra Institute where she is just about to complete a Cert IV in Community Services Work. Rhiannon’s goal is to work in the community services sector where she can make a difference and empower individuals and communities in the Wollongong Local Government Area.
Rhiannon has not always been blind. At the age of eleven, she developed Type 1 diabetes. However it was not until she was 29 and living and working as a gold miner in Leonora in remote Western Australia that she began to notice problems with her eyesight.
“Suddenly I began to experience cloudiness and blurriness in my vision and I could not see anything in the dark. Not great when I was working as a miner and living so far from medical facilities,” she said.
Rhiannon flew to Perth and attended Royal Perth Hospital, where she was diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy and Glaucoma.
“I began to prepare for the worst and put in place support to live as a person who is blind. I moved back to Wollongong to be close to my support network of family, friends and Vision Australia. Within two and a half years of first noticing eye problems, I was completely blind”.
Now, four years later, Rhiannon lives independently with Kingy, attends TAFE three days a week, and volunteers at Vision Australia and at a community centre in Wollongong.
Rhiannon received Kingy 19 months ago through Seeing Eye Dogs Australia. “Kingy has improved my confidence, my independence and my ability to get out in the community. We go everywhere together. I love being a part of the Wollongong community. I want to prove that people who are blind or who have low vision are valuable contributing members of our community,” she said.