The Fred Hollows Foundation today paid tribute to former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and in particular his efforts to improve the living conditions of Indigenous Australians.Foundation CEO Brian Doolan said today marked the passing of a great Australian and called for the work to continue to lift the standards of healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Fred Hollows’ 1968 visit to Wave Hill station to meet with Vincent Lingiari triggered his interest in the rights and health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders,” Mr Doolan said.

“He became part of a relentless campaign along with many others that culminated in Gough Whitlam handing back the traditional lands of the Gurindji people and the symbolic gesture now immortalised in photos.”

The critical discussions for Fred’s first National Trachoma and Eye Health Program began in 1975 under the Whitlam Government, and the funding agreement was eventually signed during the Fraser era.

“That program and the ongoing work in the decades since has led to the sight of thousands of Australians being saved and restored, particularly in Indigenous and remote communities,” Mr Doolan said.

“Gough Whitlam’s government will always be remembered for its significant reforms in education, health care and was the cornerstone for modern Australia.

“Fred Hollows and Gough Whitlam shared a vision that Indigenous Australians should enjoy the same rights and standards of care as all Australians.”