Bev Larsson’s life changed when Henry her guide dog came along.
The visually-impaired Hastings Point resident, who was the overall winner of the Tweed Shire Access and Inclusion Awards, said Henry had given her independence and freedom.
It had also inspired her to become a community advocate for Guide Dogs Australia.
In fact she was at a Guide Dogs Australia event in Sydney last Wednesday when the awards night was held at Twin Towns in Tweed Heads.
Speaking via a video screened at the Tweed event, Ms Larsson said her life had changed since she received Henry.
Ms Larsson visits schools with her book Along Came Henry and was recently appointed as an inspirational speaker for Guide Dogs Australia.
‘When we go to the schools it’s a lot of fun. The kids really enjoy understanding more about his ability, his limitations and how we met,’ she said.
‘It that sense I hope I’m dispelling the myth about disability and bringing people closer to understanding that visual impairment is just something you learn to live with. It might limit your ability but it doesn’t create too many barriers.’
Pottsville Beach Neighbourhood Centre, a previous overall winner, and South Tweed Touch Footy were also finalists for the top honour.
This year’s awards featured a new Dementia Friendly Community category, as the annual awards sought to turn greater attention to the condition.
The Dementia Action Group was the inaugural recipient on the new category, for providing community education to businesses to register as Dementia Friendly Community supporters.
Guest speaker and Dementia Australia spokesperson Trevor Crosby said dementia is a “natural disaster running unchecked, out of control in Australia”.
“I liken this situation to a bushfire raging out of control, which would be declared a natural disaster and the appropriate funding allocated,” he said.
This year’s Belonging Award was won by Cudgen Surf Life Saving Club for its inclusive Nippers Program.
Kingscliff’s Mockingbird Cafe and its hospitality employment training was presented with the Advocacy Award.
Visit www.tweed.nsw.gov.au/AccessInclusionAwards to see a full list of honoured businesses.