By Bill Jolley
Peter Goebel died suddenly from a heart attack on Easter Monday morning, collapsing in the street whilst on his way to his local train station. He was a founding member of Blind Citizens Australia, a regular attendee at national conventions and the founding leader of the Footscray branch in Melbourne. He did not seek national leadership of BCA, focusing his efforts on building his chiropractic business and supporting his young family.
Although Peter had low vision from birth and great difficulty in reading print, he was not taught braille at school. He mastered braille as an adult, using it as the literacy medium for record-keeping (including patient notes) in his demanding medical practice and associated wellness products business.
Peter was a tenacious advocate and an active member of his communities of interest, including the free masons and blind cricket.
Peter received most of his schooling at the Carrombank Sight-Saving School and completed his secondary education by correspondence at the Yooralla Hospital School for Crippled Children. Peter was gifted with a dogged determination and a meticulous diligence, enabling him to complete a Diploma of Chiropractic’s and associated further qualifications, becoming the first blind person to complete such training in Australia.
Peter was respected as an early success story of the RVIB tertiary resource service which pioneered the dissemination of textbook materials on reel-to-reel tape and then cassette. He was critically dependent on the audio format since he could not read print or braille fluently.
Peter experienced significant challenge and deep personal tragedy as he nurtured his young family and worked long hours to build his business. In 1974 he married Dawn, who was also blind, and they soon were taking care of three young children. Dawn was kept busy as the primary caregiver for their children, but she also worked in the clinic maintaining the records in braille and taking responsibility for general administration. Their eldest daughter, Emma, suffered a traumatic episode during eye surgery as a baby which left her profoundly disabled.
Peter and Dawn soon realised that their house and practice in Spotswood was unsuitable for a child with profound disabilities, so Peter project-managed the design and build of a new accessible dwelling with home, business and hydrotherapy pool in the neighbouring suburb of Newport where they lived for many years. Integral to his design process for the building was his construction of a scale model using Lego showing the layout of all of the rooms.
In 1995, aged just forty, Dawn died after a short illness from cancer; and just a few months later Emma died.
In 1986 Peter led a group of concerned blind people who worked hard and were successful in gaining three seats on the board of the RVIB. Their involvement over the next ten years was significant in modernising RVIB’s approach to service delivery and fundraising, although significant reform of the education and young adult support services had already begun.
Peter later obtained a qualification as an O&M instructor and in 2001 was invited to join the board of Seeing Eye Dogs Australia. Over the next four years he served as chair of the board and as acting CEO.
Peter was a high achiever, devoted to his family, community-minded and generous. He made major efforts to improve the quality of life of people who are blind or have low vision. On behalf of our self-help community, I thank Peter Goebel for his commendable efforts and contributions over many years; and I extend our deepest sympathies to his children, Kevin and Kathryn, and to other family members.