Vision for a major party

HAPPY: Carmel Stevenson works on her silk scarf dyeing at Vision Australia Ballarat, where she relishes the art activities and sense of camaraderie. Picture: Kate Healy

HAPPY: Carmel Stevenson works on her silk scarf dyeing at Vision Australia Ballarat, where she relishes the art activities and sense of camaraderie. Picture: Kate Healy

CARMEL Stevenson used to make wedding cakes but switched to woodwork when her eyesight started to fail.

Ms Stevenson made the transition with the help of Vision Australia Ballarat, a service she says has helped her understand what she can do, and ways around what she can no longer do.

“I am able to make (woodwork) presents for all my family,” Ms Stevenson said.

“I love coming here...it gives you a great sense of achievement and there is a lot of companionship. We all have a laugh at the things we do, like wearing odd shoes or a shirt inside-out.

“As long as you can laugh at yourself.”

Vision Australia celebrated 50 years of its Ballarat recreation programs with a special afternoon tea on Thursday afternoon.

The hub offers services for the region’s blind and low-vision community.

Activity programs span from joinery and pottery to walking, lunch at local venues and discussions on current affairs.

Ms Stevenson encouraged more people with low-vision to visit Vision Australia and realise the programs on offer.

Vision Australia chief executive officer Ron Hooton said it was exciting to be part of celebrations for a service that continued to play such an important, empowering role in the lives of so many people across the Ballarat region.

“It’s huge. There are so many people in Australia, who have blindness,” Mr Hooton said.  “It’s an important social inclusion service that can help in daily lives of people in getting around and being as independent as possible in the community.”

Mr Hooton paid tribute to the 67 volunteers involved in the Ballarat hub, from driving people around to office-based support.

Anniversary celebrations also honoured Maureen Davey, who has participated in the recreation programs since they opened 50 years ago.

Ms Davey, who was born legally blind with retinitis pigmentosa, was awarded a Vision Australia community service award.

The 70-year-old said Lillian Dethridge had been the driving force behind bringing the program to Ballarat. She said Ms Dethridge knew about a similar program at the Kooyong Centre in Ballarat and fought hard to get one here.

“The program has changed a good bit, but it’s always been a successful play, and that’s a great thing,” Ms Davey said.