Although Fred Hollows died more than 20 years ago, his fierce determination – and commitment – to improving the eyesight of Aboriginal lives on through The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Fred was shocked by the poor standard of health of Indigenous Australians after his groundbreaking work through the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program in the 1970s, calling it a “scandal”.

One of the most effective ways The Foundation has been improving eye health is by holding intensive eye surgery weeks in Alice Springs in conjunction with the Northern Territory Department of Health.

Since 2006, in an attempt to address the backlog of surgery for Aboriginal people in remote areas, more than 637 Aboriginal patients have been seen at the Alice Springs Eye Hospital Eye Health Clinic.

Over a period of three days this week, opthalmologist Dr Tim Henderson successfully operated on another 30 Aboriginal patients at the clinic.

Many had travelled to the hospital via plane, bus, and car, from vast distances of up to 700 kilometres away.

One of the patients to receive this life transforming surgery was 55-year-old Bruce Clifford Swan, who provides cultural tours in the Northern Territory’s Watarrka National Park. Mr Clifford Swan, who had travelled more than 320 kilometres for the surgery from Kings Canyon, said in an interview with The Australian after the operation:

“I’m going to do my tour again, things are so much better now.”

Mr Clifford Swan was captured in these wonderful photographs by Alice Springs photographer Barry Skipsey. Also shown is Barry’s photograph of patients Sandra Armstrong, and Emily and Angelina Schilling waiting for their post-operation consultations at the clinic.

Despite these eye intensives, Aboriginal adults are six times more likely than other Australians to go blind. It takes almost twice as long for these cataract patients to receive treatment compared with the mainstream population.

In The Australian article, The Foundation’s director of public affairs David Britton said:

"Over the last few years since the intensives began, the waiting list for eye surgery has been slashed. This highlights the need for a coordinated  long term program which reaches those most in need. We are still playing catch up with eliminating avoidable blindness."

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