Representatives of Australia’s eye health and vision care sector have commended the Australian Government on its commitment of AUD$58 million over four years to tackle chronic eye and ear disease for Indigenous Australians.
“Australia is the only developed nation where trachoma remains endemic. This historic announcement by the Prime Minister will finally aim to eliminate a disease, which affects more than 20,000 Aboriginal children around Australia,” said Jennifer Gersbeck, Chief Executive Officer of Vision 2020 Australia.
As part of the initiative, the Prime Minister announced at least 1,000 additional eye and ear surgical procedures. There will also be an increase of at least ten regional teams to treat and prevent eye disease in Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and other states.
“The Government commitment is a positive step forward in the battle to eliminate blinding trachoma in Aboriginal communities,” said Dea Delaney Thiele, Chief Executive Officer of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.
“Trachoma is an infectious eye disease exacerbated by poor hygiene and living conditions. This initiative is a great step toward closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.”
In February, Ms Dea Delaney-Thiele was appointed the Chair of Vision 2020 Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee. Ms Thiele has extensive experience working in Aboriginal Health and has sat on several Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Boards at the local, state and national level. Ms Thiele also served on the Boards of the Westmead Children’s Hospital and Western Sydney Area Health Service.
The prevalence of eye disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is up to ten times that of the general community, and the leading causes of blindness and vision impairment are cataract, diabetic retinopathy, refractive error and trachoma.
Vision 2020 Australia is the national body working in partnership to prevent avoidable blindness and improve vision care. Vision 2020 Australia brings together over 50 member organisations such as Centre for Eye Research Australia, CBM Australia, The Fred Hollows Foundation, International Centre for Eye care Education, Optometrists Association Australia, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, Vision Australia, and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW, Aboriginal Health.