Announcement – A bright year ahead for Blind Citizens Australia

Following its meeting on January 19th 2017, the BCA Board has announced several exciting appointments which will ensure the organisation’s continued growth and development throughout the coming year and beyond.

  • Following a short but intensive recruitment process, Emma Bennison has been appointed to the position of BCA Executive Officer. Emma comes to BCA after four years as CEO of Arts Access Australia, the national peak body representing arts and disability. Her proven track record as a disability advocate and as a champion of leadership opportunities for people with disability will be of immense benefit to our organisation. For the last fifteen months Emma has lead BCA as its National President. The Board looks forward to working with Emma in her new role.
  • As a result of Emma’s change of role, the BCA Presidency was declared vacant and Vice President John Simpson was elected to this position on a unanimous vote of Directors. John served as BCA Executive Officer for seven years during the 1980s and 90s and has held a variety of Board positions since. He has a long and distinguished history in advocating on behalf of blind and vision impaired Australians and will bring strong governance and leadership skills to the role.
  • Dr Lynne Davis, who re-joined the BCA Board in 2015 after an absence of some years, has accepted appointment as Vice President.

As a result of two board resignations in late 2016 and the vacancy caused by Emma’s resignation as a Director, the Board also made three appointments to fill casual vacancies.

  • Fiona Woods, who served with distinction as a BCA Director in the 1990s and early 2000s was warmly welcomed back to the Board;
  • James Manders has accepted an invitation to bring his considerable financial management and corporate governance skills to the Board;
  • And, highly acclaimed Paralympian swimmer Prue Watt will strengthen the voice of younger members at the Board table.

In announcing these appointments, newly elected President John Simpson said “I am delighted to have this opportunity to lead our organisation with the support of such a strong and diverse Board of Directors”. “BCA has made great progress over the last year in restoring its position as the independent and articulate voice of blind Australians and I am confident that with Emma at the helm and the input of such a strong group of Directors, we will continue to improve our advocacy and policy representation of the needs of blind and vision impaired Australians”.

Incoming Executive Officer Emma Bennison explained: “having served as BCA President since October 2015 I am thrilled to have this further opportunity to apply my skills and experience to the operational management of our organisation.” “We have a great team of staff and volunteer members and I am delighted to lead their advocacy, policy development and information sharing work”.

John’s role as President takes effect immediately. His first major task will be to lead BCA’s annual two day board retreat, which will provide induction and governance training for Directors. It will also consider planning and priority setting for the coming year.

Emma will take up her new role in mid-February. In the meantime, she will continue to offer input to both the staff and Board.

BCA Submission to the Review of the Disability Employment Services Framework

Please find below a summary of a recent BCA Review of Disability Employment Services Framework submission. Recent and past submissions can be found on the BCA submissions webpage

Review of the Disability Employment Services Framework

The unemployment rate of people who are blind or vision impaired is still four times the national average,
And current approaches to this problem are failing. A survey conducted by Blind Citizens Australia between October 2013 and April 2014 found that only 35 per cent of respondents had been successful in gaining employment through a disability employment service. We believe disability employment services could be achieving far better outcomes for people who are blind or vision impaired and welcome the opportunity to provide feedback to inform the review of the disability employment services framework.

Go here to Read the full BCA Review of DES Framework Submission (Word doc 91kb)

A Whole New World of reading Will Soon Open Up for Blind and Vision-impaired Australians

For Immediate Release 1 July 2016

As of September this year, Australians who are blind or vision-impaired will have access to more books than ever before. Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) today warmly welcomed the 20th ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty. Now that twenty countries have ratified the treaty, which allows for the free movement of books in accessible formats such as Braille and large print between countries, it will come into force in Australia and other ratifying countries as of September 30th 2016.

“This is a great day for people who are blind or vision impaired,” said BCA President, Emma Bennison. “It means that thousands of books will be made available for the first time to Australians who need them to study, get a job, or just enjoy the world from a different perspective. At the moment only about five per cent of books are accessible.”

The Treaty was first signed in Morocco in 2013. Australia ratified in December 2015, and was among the first nations to do so.

“Australia has been a leader in getting the Marrakesh Treaty off the ground, through government and through the leadership of Australian Maryanne Diamond in her recent role as World Blind Union President. We look forward to working with the Australian government as it implements the Treaty in the months and years to come.”

Media contact: Leah van Poppel BCA CEO

0430 210 980


For more information, visit the World Blind Union media release:

BCA Calls for Taxis to Accept Dog Guides

On Monday, January 18, Nadia Mattiazzo, a Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) member who is totally blind and uses a dog guide, was refused service by a taxi driver because of her dog. “This is the sixth or seventh time I’ve been refused service in the last year. I’ve lodged complaints every time it’s happened and there has been very little action taken at any time”, Nadia said today in an interview with 3AW.

Alarmingly, Nadia was holding the door handle of the taxi when it pulled away in this latest instance, raising serious safety concerns.

“We at BCA share Nadia’s frustration,” said BCA CEO Leah van Poppel. “Although we know the issues for taxi companies can be complicated – such as high staff turnover and cultural concerns – it’s unacceptable in this day and age that a person who is blind should have their safety compromised by ignorance.”

BCA regularly hears from members who have been illegally refused taxi travel in Victoria and across the country, and works actively to advocate for change with organisations like the Victorian Taxi Commission.

“Despite a great deal of publicity being given to instances of dog guide users being refused service by taxi drivers, the issue continues to occur across the country,” said Ms van Poppel. We’re calling on companies, drivers and regulators to step up. We know the answers aren’t easy, but clearly more needs to be done.”

Media contact: Leah van Poppel BCA CEO

0430 210 980


New Horizons Program 400


This week on program 400 of New Horizons, in this special 400th edition, we focus on the Jeffrey Blyth Foundation and its founders, the late Hugh Jeffrey and David Blyth. The presenter is Stephen Jolley.

You can use the embedded audio player above to listen or download the program.

New Horizons is now available as a podcast! Using your pod catcher of choice, use the search term “Blind Citizens Australia”, you should then be able to subscribe to the New Horizons program.

New Horizons is Blind Citizens Australia’s weekly radio program. It can be heard on RPH and community radio stations throughout Australia. Go here for Broadcast times and stations

Current and past Episodes of New Horizons can also be found on the Blind Citizens Australia audio page

And on the The Global Voice

New Horizons is produced at the studios of Vision Australia Radio in Melbourne. Blind Citizens Australia thanks Vision Australia for their technical Support and for the use of their resources. You can visit Vision Australia on the web at Vision Australia website