Geoff and his 12-year-old guide dog are a familiar sight around the NSW’s Hunter Region and well-established fixtures of their local community. Indy, his furry companion of ten years, is affectionately known as ‘hoover doover’ for his tendency to eat just about anything.
‘Indy is my eyes and keeps me safe, but he is even more than that. We look after each other—he’s a big part of my life,’ Geoff says.
Being deafblind is a big part of Geoff’s life and identity. He is passionate about sharing his experiences and perspectives with the community.
‘It’s part of who I am, and important for me to help the wider community understand deafblindness. It’s a learning path that never ends, and we all learn from each other,’ he says.
Geoff, who received cochlear implants through NextSense almost a decade ago, communicates through spoken English and is currently learning Auslan.
He regularly meets with deaf students to practice signing and promote awareness around communicating with deafblind people.
This year, Geoff participated in a global ‘Yarn Bombing’ to further awareness of deafblindness. Over 22 countries participated in the event—decorating trees, street signs, and park benches in bright coloured yarn with the aim of starting a conversation.
‘Our Hunter Deafblind group came together to sew and crochet colourful displays for the event. With the permission of our local council, we yarn-bombed Devonshire Lane in Newcastle. Over 100 people attended, and it was a great chance to connect with the wider community,’ Geoff says.
One of Geoff’s greatest motivations in advocating for the Deafblind community is to break down social isolation.
‘Being Deafblind can be isolating, so I want to help people connect,’ Geoff explains.
He is active in the Hunter Deafblind group, organising activities and events that build social connection. He has even designed T-shirts for the group that raise awareness about deafblindness.
‘The group decides what we want to do, then I research, make sure it’s accessible, and organise the activity. We’ve done some great things, from indoor rock climbing to visiting the Shark and Ray Centre,’ he says.
Geoff is constantly finding new ways to help those around him. So, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Geoff even responded to the shortage of hand sanitiser in his local community.
As a passionate homebrewer, he turned his hand to producing and distributing the much-needed sanitiser.
‘I love homebrewing – I’m known for my chocolate, butterscotch and Turkish Delight rums. So, when I saw on Facebook that people were struggling to get hand sanitiser, I thought, why not give it a go?’
Geoff gives almost any challenge a go—a trait that has seen him step up to many challenges, including a new role with the Community Disability Alliance Hunter (CDAH).
No matter what is next for Geoff, it is clear he and his faithful companion, hoover doover, are important members of the Hunter Region, and will continue finding fun, creative ways to build connection and raise awareness among his community.