Fred Hollows

Fred Hollows

Professor Fred Hollows was an Australian ophthalmologist, recognized for his contributions to the eye health sector in Australia and in many countries around the world. He is the founder of The Fred Hollows Foundation, and is still one of Australia’s most recognised and beloved figures, decades after his death. His legacy lives on through The Fred Hollows Foundation, which continues his life’s work – realizing Fred’s vision of a world where no one is needlessly blind.

Fred's life

His early years
His early years

Fred Hollows was born on April 9, 1929 in Dunedin, New Zealand. He originally studied theology to become a church minister, but a summer holiday job at a mental health facility opened his eyes to a different way of thinking. His talent in science meant he was offered a place in medicine, and after graduating, Fred began assisting eye surgeons. He eventually became so interested in ophthalmology, he moved to the UK to specialise in it. Fred was awarded his fellowship in 1965, and he came to Australia after being appointed an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of New South Wales. He was also made the chairman of ophthalmology at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, Sydney. While at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Fred treated many patients, with a number of them (and their family members) still remembering him as a gruff yet lovable doctor.

Bourke and rural Australia
Bourke and rural Australia

In 1968, after treating two Aboriginal elders from Wattie Creek as patients in his eye clinic, Fred was invited to fly up to their camp in the Northern Territory. The poor standard of health in the camp, particularly in eye health, was a shock. He couldn’t believe that people lived in these conditions in a country like Australia. Fred was especially disturbed by the huge number of children and adults suffering blinding trachoma – a disease rarely found in the rest of Australia. He was later asked to go to Bourke, which is about 500 miles from Sydney, where he found the same shocking conditions. These moments sparked Fred’s indignation and drove his desire to fight for better access to eye health and living conditions for Indigenous Australians.

Fred and Gabi
Fred and Gabi

Fred first met his wife Gabi in the early ‘70s during her training as an orthoptist. A few years later, they worked together on the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program, a journey that took them to more than 465 Indigenous communities in outback Australia. This was the beginning of their relationship and a lifelong partnership to drive change in Australia’s own backyard and in the developing world. Today, Gabi Hollows remains a Founding Director of The Foundation.

Fred takes on the world
Fred takes on the world

In 1985, Fred visited Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO). And two years later, he visited war-torn Eritrea. These experiences had a huge effect on Fred, motivating him to find a way to reduce the cost of eye care and treatment in developing countries. Fred saw the need for factories to produce affordable intraocular lenses. These lenses were used to treat cataract and he knew that to provide affordable eye care in developing countries it was necessary to significantly cut the cost of the lenses. He sought to empower local communities by founding lens factories in Nepal and Eritrea. The lenses were expensive when made in the United States or Australia, but cheap and accessible when made locally. It saw the cost of the tiny plastic lenses fall from more than $150 to less than $5. Today, these factories have produced millions of lenses and are a continuing reminder of Fred’s enduring impact. Fred’s work was thrust into the national spotlight in Australia when he was named Australian of the Year for 1990. The award is the country’s highest honour and celebrates the achievements and contributions of eminent Australians who are role models for the nation.

His final years
His final years

Despite being diagnosed with cancer, Fred was determined to keep pushing for change in the countries he cared deeply about. In the last few months of his life, he discharged himself from hospital to fly to Vietnam to begin training more than 300 Vietnamese eye specialists in modern surgery techniques. Fred and Gabi set up The Fred Hollows Foundation with the help of some friends to ensure his work would continue into the future. Fred died on February 10, 1993 and was given a state funeral. He had asked to be buried in Bourke, a small town in western New South Wales, where he had a great affinity with the people and the land.

I believe the basic attribute of mankind is to look after each other. Fred Hollows
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Fred's Legacy

The Fred Hollows Foundation now works in more than 25 countries and has restored sight to more than 2.5 million people worldwide. This couldn’t have been achieved without the overwhelming support of the Australian public and now our supporters around the world. We’re as determined now as ever to end avoidable blindness. 4 out of 5 people who are blind don't need to be – there remains so much to do.

 

“It's obscene to let people go blind when they don't have to.”

- Fred Hollows

 

Fred's work continues very much in the way it started: by just getting on with it. The Foundation trains doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, distributes antibiotics, raises money for much needed equipment and medical facilities and performs eye operations exactly like the ones Fred did more than 30 years ago.

“What we're doing is giving these people the chance to help themselves. We are giving them independence.”

- Fred Hollows

 

When someone's sight is restored, it gives them the chance for a better life. They're able to work, go to school and provide for their families. Fred believed that everyone, regardless of whether they were rich or poor, had the right to affordable eye care. Our work won't stop until the injustice of avoidable blindness is eliminated worldwide.

 

We believe, without a doubt, this will one day be accomplished.

 

 

 

 

 

$25 can restore sight
$25 can restore sight

$25 can restore sight

Help us end avoidable blindness