Although I’m sure many of our readers are familiar with the Australian Companion Card I wanted to share information for anyone who is new to needing disability services and to remind those who have one of some of the places you can use it.
The Australian Companion Card promotes the rights of people with a disability, who require a companion, to fair ticketing at events and venues. It’s a National program which is managed by the individual states in Australia. The Companion Card is for people with significant permanent disability who can demonstrate that due to the impact of the disability they are unable to attend most community activities or events without attendant care, and that need is life-long. BJ has had a companion card for many years and it has saved us a lot of money both when we are travelling and when he accesses the community with the help of a support worker.
So I thought I would show you a few ways we’ve used the Companion Card.
Live shows are expensive. In the holidays BJ went to see Brainiacs at the Sydney Opera House with his support worker. He loved the show and his support worker received a complimentary admission.
Most theatres and shows accept the Companion Card. The only show we’ve found doesn’t accept it, is Disney on Ice.
Even periodic events like Sydney Festival accept the Companion Card.
ATTRACTIONS & TRAVEL
Most attractions seem to recognise and accept the Companion Card. Zoos, museums and tourist attractions usually take it, but remember it’s a voluntary affiliation, attractions don’t have to participate.
BJ recently got an annual Merlin Pass which covers Sea Life Aquarium, Wild Life Sydney, Sydney Tower and more. He received a companion Merlin Annual pass to go with it so anyone accompany him also receives free entry.
The companion card gave us one free adult entry to the Gold Coast theme parks.
When we purchased a special needs dolphin experience for BJ at Sea World Hubby went for free as his companion.
Travelling from Hamilton Island to Whitehaven Beach with Cruise Whitsundays we were surprised and happy to find they accepted the Companion Card.
BJ loves taking public transport and regularly uses it when he’s out with a support worker.
We got BJ a pensioner/concession Opal Card so he travels at a discounted rate and with his Companion Card, whoever is with him goes free.
You can read about getting a pensioner/concession Opal Card here.
When visiting Byron Bay Lighthouse recently we were reminded that NSW National Parks accept the Companion Card for free entry into their National Parks. Visitors need to present their Companion Card at the park entry stations and a free ticket will be issued. At parks with pay and display, or self-registration, the National Parks ask visitors to leave their Companion Card on the dashboard. We have done this and found it ruins the laminate of the Companion Card. To avoid ruining BJ’s Companion Card we will be applying for a NPWS exemption card. This card is available to pensioner Concession Card holders and EDA, Intermediate and Special Rate (blinded, TPI and TTI) pensioners. You can read about it here.
A FEW OF MY PICKS
If you’ve had a Companion Card for a while like BJ, it’s probably a good idea to take another look at the affiliates in your state. While researching this blog I was taking another look myself and I was surprised to see many aquatic centres and local pools accept the Companion Card as well as Fitness First gyms. AAC Airport Express also caught my eye for airport transfers (though I’m unsure if they have accessible vehicles). BJ is a regular movie-goer so he uses his card all the time at local cinemas and for exhibitions at the city museums.
STATE BY STATE
Each state has affiliate offers with local attractions. Not all who accept the Companion Card appear on the list, so don’t be afraid to ask as you travel.
The Companion Card is only officially recognised in Australia however when we travelled we took it with us. I contacted many attractions in advance and asked if they had a discounted, or similar arrangement and sent a copy of BJ’s companion card. We found many emailed in return that they would accept it. We then travelled with those emails and presented them to the ticket booth at the attraction. Not all would accept it so keep in mind it is up to the discretion of the attraction but it is worthwhile asking.
We were looking at booking an Animals in Action Experience at San Diego Zoo so before we travelled I contacted the zoo to enquire if there was any discount for companions and found that one carer could get their pass for free. This was a significant saving and once again showed it’s worth asking.
APPLYING FOR A COMPANION CARD
The Companion Card is free and an application can be downloaded online. You do need to provide two passport size photos with the application.
NSW Companion Card application can be found here.
WA Companion Card application can be found here.
SA Companion Card application can be found here.
VIC Companion Card application can be found here.
QLD Companion Card application can be found here.
We’d love to hear where you use your Companion Card. Pop any tips in comments below or over on Facebook.