It was a day of reflection on Tuesday 8 December when board members, staff, volunteers and supporters of Macular Disease Foundation Australia met in Sydney for the Foundation’s annual general meeting.
Foundation Chairman Elizabeth Carr announced that in line with the Foundation’s Board Charter, director Dr. Jim Runciman was to step down from the board after 12 years service. Additionally, Ms. Carr said she would step down from the Board in late 2016, following 10 years as Chairman.
Ms. Carr spoke about the Foundation’s growth acknowledging that at its establishment, in 2001, “we did not know what we did not know”. Ms. Carr spoke personally telling of the very different support experienced by her parents, who had both developed macular degeneration. There was no support available when her father was diagnosed, but by the time her mother was, the Foundation had been established and the work had begun to support those with the disease.
Ms. Carr said over the past ten years, under the leadership of Julie Heraghty, the Foundation had gone from strength to strength, “from the fledgling organisation to one now that is truly recognised in Australia and internationally for its committed work”.
Board Director Paul Rogan presented Macular Disease Foundation Australia’s annual financial statements, reporting “a very good year for raising funds” with monies raised approximately $400,000 up on the previous year, resulting in a surplus/profit of AU$1.4m compared to $400,000 in 2013/14. Mr. Rogan said the increase was primarily due to two significant bequests, which had provided “fantastic support”. He noted the Foundation’s increasing commitment to research with research grants valued at $1.3 million awarded in 2015, taking the overall commitment to research to $2.8m since the Foundation’s Grants Program was established.
Macular Disease Foundation Australia Patron Ita Buttrose spoke to attendees, reflecting on her ten years with the Foundation and the impact macular degeneration had had on her father and uncles. She said in the Foundation’s early days, when little was known about macular degeneration, “the aim was to raise awareness with the goal being to encourage people to have a regular eye test and macular check”. With research indicating that 82 per cent of Australians do so, she said the Foundation’s achievements were impressive but there was still work to be done to find the “missing 18 per cent”. She spoke about the Foundation’s commitment to research and its broadened scope, particularly its focus on people at risk of diabetic eye diseases. Ms Buttrose said “there is really nothing like telling people stories to get over the impact of macular degeneration – not just about the diagnosis but the fact that there is so much more to be done (to save sight)”.
Ms. Buttrose paid tribute to the Foundation’s many volunteers. “In ten years I’ve seen the enthusiasm of the volunteers never wane… we could simply not do all that we do without you, you are very valuable,” she said, adding that Julie and her team always run the extra mile.
Ms. Heraghty took the opportunity to thank Dr. Runciman for his contribution not only as a director but also as a teacher, generously sharing his expertise with the Foundation on macular disease. She thanked Ms. Buttrose for her commitment over ten years as well as ambassadors Jean Kittson and Jan Utzon before thanking directors, volunteers, staff and supporters. Finally, Foundation volunteer Val Nicholson spoke, thanking Foundation staff for their kindness. While acknowledging the value of the work contributed by volunteers, Ms. Nicholson said being involved with the Foundation also made a significant and positive difference to the lives of volunteers.