Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has put eye health on the agenda, referring to Fred Hollows in his maiden speech today as a “non-Indigenous hero” who worked tirelessly to Close the Gap.
The Fred Hollows Foundation CEO Ian Wishart congratulated the Minister on a momentous occasion and said The Foundation was ready to work with him.
“We thank Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt for advocating the work of Fred, who wanted every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to have the same access to eye health as other Australians,” Mr Wishart said.
“It’s a sad reality and completely unacceptable that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are still three times more likely to be blind than other Australians.
“We recently joined a call for the Government to provide an extra $85.5 million over five years for the sector’s Strong Eyes Strong Communities 5 year plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health.”
The extra $85.5 million in funding would increase availability of eye health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians
and embed eye health into primary care services, particularly Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are four times more likely to wait more than one year for cataract surgery
“We know Fred would still be fighting to close the gap on vision impairment and blindness if he were alive today, and would be outraged that more than 40 years after he first took up the fight that the gap has not been closed,” Mr Wishart said.
“We are proud of what has been achieved so far, but much work still needs to be done in Indigenous health and we will continue to see this through.
“The Foundation looks forward to working with the Minister to finally close the gap on vision impairment and blindness.”
“We have non-Indigenous heroes, too. Fiona Stanley and Fred Hollows in health. Nugget Coombs and Sir Paul Hasluck in public policy. There are many more who work with us and alongside us including our teachers, police officers, nurses, corporate leaders and community workers. I value their contributions immensely.”
- Minister for Indigenous Australian Ken Wyatt