PM Tony Abbott celebrates The Foundation’s 'spirit of mateship'

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says that he is proud to see The Fred Hollows Foundation’s work in Sri Lanka representing the generosity and goodwill of all Australians.

"It's great to be with Gabi Hollows. The Hollows Foundation has done extraordinary work in so many countries including Australia. And I like to think that the Hollows Foundation exemplifies that spirit of mateship which we hope remains at the heart of the Australian ethos and the Australian character."

Mr Abbott was speaking during a reception at the Australian High Commission in Colombo to hear how The Foundation is working to ensure that eye care is a priority for the fastest growing ageing population in Asia.

Founding director Gabi Hollows introduced the Prime Minister to members of Elders’ Clubs established through the Better Vision, Healthy Ageing Program. The clubs have been formed in partnership with Burnet institute and local NGOs, to make a positive impact on older people’s lives.

After first visiting the country in the 1970s, Gabi said that she was excited to bring Fred’s dream of ending avoidable blindness back to Sri Lanka.

“The work we are doing here with elders from the tea plantations is ensuring that people who have worked their entire lives in very difficult conditions now receive the support they need to live happy, healthy lives – with clear vision.

“This project is helping to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of elders accessing the eye health services they need.”

“The elders told us that ‘you can lose a hand, or a leg, and go on – but being without your sight is like losing your life.’ In Sri Lanka, as it is everywhere, sight is life.”

The Sri Lankan project is expected to provide an important blueprint for other low and middle-income countries on how to incorporate vision services into healthy ageing strategies.

Last year The Fred Hollows Foundation worked across 19 countries to support over 400,000 sight restoring treatments and procedures, trained more than 40,000 health workers and surgeons and provided two million eye screenings.

> Find out more about The Foundation's sight-restoring work and success stories.

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT: Address to reception at Australian High Commission:

PM TONY ABBOTT PRAISES FOUNDATION’S ‘EXTRAORDINARY WORK’

Address to reception at Australian High Commission
Colombo, Sri Lanka 

17 November, 2013

Thank you so much High Commissioner and thank you to the Hollows Foundation, thank you to Habitat, but most of all thank you to the people of Sri Lanka who have joined us today to help explain to me exactly what has been done as a result of this private and state-provided aid for the people of Sri Lanka.

It’s great to be with Gabi Hollows. The Hollows Foundation has done extraordinary work in so many countries, including Australia, and I like to think that the Hollows Foundation exemplifies that spirit of mateship which we hope remains at the heart of the Australian ethos and the Australian character.

It is great to think that we are able to help people who have suffered in such a practical way. It’s very easy when you are confronted with difficult situations, and you are in public life, to have an opinion.

It’s much harder to be able to render practical assistance and it really is exhilarating to see what the Australian Government and people have been able to do in this country. It’s also particularly exhilarating that we haven’t just been helping, we have been helping Sri Lankan people to help themselves.

Now, it is a delight to be here for this Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. What has impressed me about the people of Sri Lanka over the past few days is their potential to really lift this country quickly into a much better condition. I think this country has tremendous potential to be one of the jewels of Asia and when that happens, it will be to some extent through assistance from others, but it will be fundamentally through the efforts of the people of Sri Lanka have made: efforts that they’ve made to help themselves, efforts that they’ve made to put behind them some of the animosities of the past, efforts that they’ve made to reach out to one another in a spirit of friendship and national harmony.

So, it really is a thrill to be here, and Robyn, thank you for so ably exposing me – in the context of what is inevitably quite a brief visit – to the work that has been done here. Finally, again, I just want to thank the people of Sri Lanka who are here to help explain what’s been done for my benefit. I know one way or another you’ve lived through a lot, and I just want to extend my sympathy for the past, but my hope and joy that the future looks so much better.
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