What is now the Blind Foundation began in 1890 as the Jubilee Institute for the Blind to provide services to people who were blind or had low vision.
Since then, we have continued to connect Kiwis who are blind or have low vision to expert staff and their peers. Blind Foundation services and support have evolved with the times.
Back in the early days, the first formal service was a school and residence in Parnell, Auckland. As the services developed, we also offered sheltered employment, workshops and residential programmes.
Towards the end of the twentieth century however, people who were blind or had low vision were better integrated into the community. The workshops, hostels, school and other institutional activities began to close down.
Nowadays, the aim is to provide the services and support that enables people who are blind or have low vision to be self-reliant and live the life they chose.
The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act 2002 brought about a major turning point in the organisaton’s history. We became truly accountable to our members. Our Board of Directors is elected by people who are blind or have low vision.
If you’d like to know more about the history of the Blind Foundation, or about the history of the blind and low vision community in New Zealand, visit the the online heritage repository of the Blind Foundation, Revisionary.
Revisionary was made possible with the generous support of the Lottery Grants Board, and with the development work of software company NZMS.
Timeline of history
1889: The Bishop of Auckland called a meeting which established the Association of the Friends of the Blind. A house is rented next to St Mary’s Vicarage in Parnell and a teacher is appointed.
1890: The Constitution of the Jubilee Institute for the Blind is formally adopted at a public meeting. It is called the Jubilee Institute to commemorate the founding of the Colony of New Zealand in 1840.
1891: A school known as the Jubilee Institute is set up in a temporary wooden building in Parnell.
1892: The Jubilee Institute is incorporated as a separate charitable institution and a board of six trustees is appointed.
1908: The Jubilee Building, which still stands in Parnell, opens. It houses the school, a library, dormitories, a dining hall and kitchen.
1927: The NZIB Military Band is formed.
1929: The success of the Military Band leads to the Dance Band, School Choir and the Girls’ String Orchestra being formed.
1930s: The Workshops are opened
1932: The Jubilee Institute for the Blind becomes national and is renamed the New Zealand Institute for the Blind (NZIB).
1955: An Act of Parliament enforces deinstitutionalisation. This results to the name change New Zealand ‘Foundation’ for the Blind (NZFB).
1965: The Homai College officially opens with honourable guests , including the Governor General Sir Bernard Ferguson.
1966: The NZFB library and studios open.
1972: The Queen grants the Blind Foundation the status of ‘Royal’ New Zealand Foundation for the Blind (RNZFB).
1973: The Royal New Zealand Foundtion of the Blind Guide Dog Centre opens.
1986: The annual Chair’s Award is established for recognising outstanding contribution to the blind community.
1989: The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, Talking Book of the Year Award and the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Narrator of the Year Award are inaugurated to recognise the most popular talking book and narrator for the year.
2000: The RNZFB and the Ministry of Education agree to transfer responsibility for Homai College to the Ministry.
2002: The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind Act 2002 comes into force, meaning the Board is now voted by Foundation members. This leads to a change in name to the Royal New Zealand Foundation ‘of’ the Blind (RNZFB).
2013: The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind launch Star awards to recognise staff and volunteers who make significant contributions to RNZFB.
2013: As a result of a project to refresh the brand, Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind changes brand name to be known as Blind Foundation, while retaining RNZFB as the legal entity for all elements of our organisation.
2015: The Blind Foundation celebrates 125 years of providing life-changing services.
2016: RNZFB Act repealed.