MORNINGTON man Alan Girling used his time during COVID lockdowns to make use of his interest in fishing to qualify as an instructor and volunteer with Fish Care.
An outdoors enthusiast and fisherman, Girling lost nearly all of his vision due to optic atrophy but did not let that stop him from rugged terrain or choppy waters.
He is now helping others enjoy what he likes as the first blind or low vision volunteer with Fish Care.
“Through my local walking club I’ve been able to maintain a good outdoor lifestyle with help from friends and other club members” Girling said.
“I also regularly go recreational fishing with my wife when time allows.”
Fish Care is a volunteer-run organisation that provides workshops, fishing clinics, fishability (fishing tailored for different people’s ability levels) and environmental stewardship.
“I was on the pier in Mornington and saw a 4WD with some fishing equipment. I went and chatted with them, found out about the organisation and asked if they needed any volunteers. I fit their criteria and so I inquired about the process to become one,” Girling said.
Due to the pandemic, the application process and the learning materials needed to become a volunteer were available online.
With the help of Vision Australia’s Girling was able to complete this training and become the organisations first low vision volunteer.
“With assistance from Vision Australia’s assistive technology team, they were able to supply the tools I needed to complete each module of the training alone and independently,” he said.
“Without their help I’d never have been able to do that. I hadn’t heard of Google classroom before all this. With these adaptations, it put me in a position where I could do something I couldn’t otherwise.”
Now qualified, Girling can help teach others about the importance of responsible fishing and get people started on their own fishing adventures.
“I’ve taught people how to rig a rod, how to cast, safe fish handling and release techniques, bag limits, you name it, I’ve taught it.”