The Fred Hollows Foundation and Specsavers

Specsavers has partnered with The Fred Hollows Foundation since 2011 and shares the vision that everyone deserves access to high quality and affordable eye care and eye wear. Being an optical retailer, as well as the nation’s leading eye health provider, this partnership is the perfect example of a business taking responsibility within its own sector.

The Specsavers Community Program raises significant funds for The Foundation. Specsavers stores across the nation donate a portion of their glasses sales to contribute to closing the gap in eye health experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Specsavers not only supports this work financially, but also through eye health equipment donations to support Aboriginal Health Services, and a skilled volunteering program that gives their optometrists the opportunity to give back to remote and under-serviced communities in Australia by providing eye care services.

They sponsor The Fred Hollows Humanity Award each year, which recognises Year 6 students across Australia who show compassion, integrity and kindness in their lives, just as Fred did.

Plus, Specsavers periodically releases Limited Edition Frames, featuring artwork from renowned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. They donate $25 from the sale of each pair of frames to ensure Australia’s First Peoples have access to culturally appropriate eye care.


 

CASE STUDY: Limited Edition Frames

As part of efforts to close the gap on vision loss between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, Specsavers and The Fred Hollows Foundation have again joined forces to launch two limited edition frames featuring the artwork of renowned Aboriginal artist and Gumatj leader, Peter Datjing Burarrwanga.

Peter is an elder, an artist and a teacher and his paintings have been revered around the world. His artwork is a window into a culture that spans generations. But Peter’s work and livelihood were threatened when he started to lose his sight. Peter, who has undergone cataract surgery thanks to The Foundation, has given permission for his work to be transferred to the glasses.

Both limited-edition frames featured one of the first stories painted by Peter after having his sight restored through The Foundation’s work. It is called ‘Ganiny and Fog’ and depicts Peter’s homeland Birany Birany, which is located in East Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, 610km east of Darwin.

Regaining his sight has given Peter the con­fidence to continue his beautiful work, support his family and community and keep his culture alive for future generations.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are three times more likely than other Australians to go blind and Specsavers and The Foundation are working to close this gap.

For each pair sold, Specsavers donated $25 to The Fred Hollows Foundation to help close the gap in health care outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The project raised $125,000 towards this important work.


 

CASE STUDY: Optometry Outreach Program – Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia

Each year, Specsavers works alongside The Fred Hollows Foundation to make quality eye care accessible to communities that would not otherwise have access through a series of outreach trips.

In 2019, a graduate and senior Specsavers optometrist travelled to Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia to work alongside The Foundation’s program partner, Lions Outback Vision.

The Foundation works with Lions Outback Vision to deliver quality eye health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Western Australia. Lions Outback Vision’s mobile eye health clinic, or Vision Van, provides ophthalmological and optometric care to 30 communities in rural and remote Western Australia.

All money raised through the Specsavers Community Program goes towards the important sight restoring work achieved through lions Outback Vision and their Vision Van in Western Australia. Optometrists participating in the Fitzroy Crossing outreach assisted both the ophthalmology and optometry teams to provide eye care in Fitzroy Crossing and in the smaller surrounding communities.

The senior optometrist who attended this outreach, Matthew Chung of Specsavers Midland Gate, describes his experience.

My trip with The Fred Hollows Foundation to the Kimberley region of WA, sponsored by Specsavers, was an experience that is difficult to put into words.

I travelled to Fitzroy Crossing with Marlene Boulos, a graduate Specsavers optometrist. We spent a lot of the trip visiting Aboriginal communities, many of which are several hours’ drive from the nearest town. It never occurred to me that the communities would be as spread out as they are. I also wasn’t expecting the health centres to be as well-equipped as they were, although unfortunately they still had very little ophthalmic equipment.

Marlene and I assisted the visiting optometrist with vision screenings and instillation of eyedrops. We managed to see quite a few patients in a short amount of time, which was impressive given the lack of typical pre-test equipment. I’d been advised by a colleague that working in Aboriginal communities would mean seeing pathology at a much later stage than I was used to. He was right. Sadly, it was common to see monocular patients and end-stage diabetic retinopathy. The access to eye care, as well as awareness and education on maintaining healthy eyesight, was far less than what we in urban practice consider to be the norm.

I realised how much I take my equipment for granted, especially at Specsavers, now that OCT is being rolled out to mainstream practice. Things that I’d consider ‘basics’, like a slit lamp and fundus camera, simply weren’t available at the health centres as there isn’t enough funding to support having these at every site.

The backlog of patients that needed to be seen was far greater than what we could have worked through in the week.

I was glad to see I was able to help in some capacity, but I don’t feel that it was enough. I think there are a multitude of barriers towards permanent change and improvement. The equipment, education and availability of eye care professionals would be a place to start. More than anything, however, we need to have a consistent team of eye care professionals to facilitate good trust and communication, as I think this is a huge barrier towards improving eye health, as well as improving health in general. I hope I can continue to do visits like this with Specsavers, and that this inspires others to do the same.