Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee

The Vision 2020 Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee provides a platform for members to collaborate and shape the direction of Vision 2020 Australia’s systemic advocacy related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and vision care. This Committee supports and promotes the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision (the Roadmap), developed by Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne, and directly supports the achievement of Vision 2020 Australia’s third goal in the Strategic Plan 2014-17: 

  • To ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have equity of access to quality eye health and vision care services. 

The Committee is working to capitalise on the Australian Government’s commitment to eye health and vision care, noting that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health is a key priority of the Implementation plan under the National Framework for Action to Promote Eye Health and Prevent Avoidable Blindness and Vision Loss (NFIP). The Committee also assists the Australian Government to identify policy and budgetary adjustments to improve the provision and coordination of eye health and vision care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Committee works closely with the National Aboriginal and Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and its affiliates to ensure its strategies are consistent with priorities identified by Aboriginal Medical Service providers in all states and territories. Through this collaboration, improvements in service delivery and culturally appropriate awareness raising initiatives are identified and advanced.

Additionally, a representative from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee sits on the National Eye Health Survey (NEHS) Steering Committee, along with a representative from NACCHO. This ensures that considerations related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are taken into account in the delivery of this landmark survey.

Committee meeting update

On 22 March 2016, the Committee met for the first meeting of the January 2016 to December 2017 term.  Jennifer Gersbeck welcomed members to the first Committee meeting of the term and introduced Jaki Adams-Barton from The Fred Hollows Foundation as the Chair of the Committee. 

  • A member feedback survey was completed at the end of 2015 and compared to results from a similar survey completed in 2013. Overall, survey results specific to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee were positive.
  • A drafted Terms of Reference (ToR), including an additional section regarding co-option was considered and endorsed by the Committee. The ToR will be provided to the Vision 2020 Australia Board for approval in June 2016. 
  • An update on progress towards a nationally consistent low cost spectacle scheme was provided and the Committee noted that discussions with the Department of Health regarding the sector-endorsed principles document were ongoing.
  • An update on the progress of the National Eye Health Survey (NEHS) was also provided. The Committee noted that the NEHS is on track and due to be complete by 30 June 2016. Depending on the outcome of the 2016 Federal Election timing, it is anticipated the final report and results will be launched in July 2016. 
  • The Committee was advised that discussions regarding a national diabetes blindness prevention program are ongoing. Vision 2020 Australia, Diabetes Australia and the Centre for Eye Research Australia are meeting in late March with representatives of the Primary Health Networks involved in the My Health Record trial sites to discuss whether a diabetes blindness prevention program could be run simultaneously. 
  • An overview of the Vision 2020 Australia 2016 Federal Election campaign noted that the policy platform, Towards 2020: A shared vision of working in partnership for eye health and vision care was finalised and launched 15 February 2016. The Committee was also advised that Vision Summits had been held successfully in February and March with the Australian Greens, the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Government. A summary report will be drafted and circulated in April. 
  • Vision 2020 Australia also provided an update on the Close the Gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health and Vision Care: Sector Funding Proposal, noting that the outstanding recommendations were included in the Federal Election policy platform and discussions with the Department of Health around these are ongoing. 
  • Indigenous Eye Health (IEH), the University of Melbourne provided the Committee with an overview of the IEH Roundtable, Planning sustainable and co-ordinated Indigenous eye health and outcomes. 
  • It was advised that a meeting with Minister Nash’s office was held in February 2016 where it was agreed that the scheduled 2018 review of the progress of the NATSIHP Implementation Plan is an opportunity to ensure eye health, through a commitment to the successor of the current NFIP, remains included as a key deliverable. 
  • The Committee noted that the recent addition of the regional development portfolio to the Minister’s responsibility provides an opportunity for the sector to consider the existing regional transport and infrastructure related to eye health and vision care. It was agreed that the Committee would convene working group to discuss this opportunity.
  • Novartis provide the Committee with an overview of the current obstacles for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and rural or remote patients (zones 4 and 5) in receiving treatment for diabetic macular edema (DME) and identified potential solutions to these obstacles in partnership with patients, their treating physicians and the government. It was agreed that the Committee would form a working group to discuss the broader implications of supporting the recommendations. 
  • Morse from the Brien Holden Vision Institute advised the Committee that the Vision CRC Eye and Vision Care Toolkit had been released and asked that Committee members provide comment and feedback on the toolkit and next steps. 
  • Finally, J. Gersbeck advised that this would be her last Committee meeting, thanked members for their commitment and contributions and praised the Committee for its achievements. It was noted that J. Gersbeck will continue to work in the eye health and vision care sector in her new role at the Fred Hollows Foundation.

Key highlights

  • In September 2015, Minister Nash announced a funding commitment from Australian Government of $6.63 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health, taking the total amount to $8 million, and vision care to support coordination activities, a national oversight function and trachoma health promotion, as a direct result of a sector funding proposal developed by the Committee. 
  • During 2015, the Committee contributed to the development of Vision 2020 Australia submissions to inquiries related to chronic disease prevention and management in primary health care, electronic health and the national diabetes strategy; ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s eye health and vision care are at the forefront of the agenda.
  • The Australian Government has committed $1.776 million to the completion of the National Eye Health Survey, which incorporates a follow up study from the National Indigenous Eye Health Survey (2008).
  • In 2014, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and vision care was included as one of three key priorities in the National Framework Implementation Plan.

Organisations represented

  • Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW
  • Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia
  • Australian College of Optometry
  • Australian Society of Ophthalmologists
  • Brien Holden Vision Institute
  • Indigenous Eye Health, the University of Melbourne
  • Lions Australia
  • Lions Eye Institute
  • OneSight Foundation
  • Optometry Australia
  • Optometric Vision Research Foundation
  • The Fred Hollows Foundation
  • Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children
  • The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists

Vision 2020 Australia thanks and acknowledges The Fred Hollows Foundation in providing secretariat support for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee.

Previous Committee meeting updates can be found here

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