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Guide Dogs partnership honours first blind law graduate

The late Malcolm Penn OAM was the first blind person to graduate in law from the University of Adelaide, and was accompanied by his first guide dog while on campus towards the end of his degree. Also a keen sportsman, Malcolm completed three Adelaide Marathons and several City-Bay fun runs with the assistance of sighted guides.

As a tribute to his strong connection to both Adelaide University Sport (AU Sport) and Guide Dogs SA/NT, the University has named Guide Dogs as their charity partner for the 2016 City-Bay Fun Run.

As a student, Malcolm sat his exams using a braille typewriter and in 1965 he became the first blind person admitted to the bar in South Australia. Throughout his legal career, guide dogs continued to assist Malcolm and in the 1970s he worked with then SA Attorney General Don Dunstan on the introduction of legislation to allow guide dogs (and now all assistance dogs) to be permitted in all public places.

Malcolm’s son David Penn, President of AU Sport and graduate of the University says that being able to attend university greatly shaped his father’s belief in the importance and value of education for the disabled.

“In the 1960s, the career prospects of a totally blind person from outback South Australia were severely limited,” says David.

“Having the opportunity to get an education and to study law enabled him to enter into a fulfilling and productive career, as a fully contributing member of the community. In particular, becoming a practicing lawyer helped him to push for legislation to allow assistance dogs into public places in South Australia, which vision impaired and other disabled people still benefit from today.”

Malcolm went on to become Adelaide’s longest serving guide dog owner, owning four guide dogs across four decades of his working career.  In 2000, in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics, he carried the Olympic Torch with his last Guide Dog, Vinty (pictured above right).

A keen sports follower and participant, Malcolm played five hundred club games and nearly one hundred state games for Blind Cricket SA, who the Adelaide University Cricket Club is now assisting with the provision of grounds and coaching.  He was also a participant in fun runs as a walker.

In 1985, Malcolm established the Sir Charles Bright Scholarship Trust to assist disabled students entering post-secondary education.  This scholarship has now helped over 300 students with their studies, including many University of Adelaide students.

Malcolm passed away in 2008 and in 2011 Guide Dogs SA/NT honoured him by naming the Autism Assistance dogs training room at the new Morphett Street premises after him.

Last year David was the City-Bay’s highest fundraiser for Guide Dogs SA/NT. It was at his instigation that they were made the charity partner for this year’s event and he says that he thinks his father would be very proud of this partnership.

“The combination of a university education and having the assistance of guide dogs had an enormous impact on what Dad was able to achieve – this is a great way to remember his achievements as a pioneer.”

Join the University of Adelaide Blacks City-Bay team

In 2015, the University and AU Sport team (including the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Warren Bebbington) were the largest to participate in the event – help us make the team even bigger this year!

Run or walk in the City-Bay with the University of Adelaide Blacks team, and you’ll get half price entry thanks to our sponsors at Westpac. Find out more about the exclusive team package and how to support Guide Dogs SA/NT.

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