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. 

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

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee met in Brisbane on Thursday 17 August 2017.

Closing the Gap in Eye Health and Vision Care by 2020 sector proposal

The Committee acknowledged that the support of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health sector was integral to the proposal and effective implementation of recommendations. It was asked that Vision 2020 Australia liaise with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) to develop and circulate information that explains NACCHO’s position on the Closing the Gap in Eye Health and Vision Care by 2020 sector proposal, particularly in relation to key issues which led to decisions not to endorse the document. Vision 2020 Australia continues to work on this request.

It was reported that Vision 2020 Australia continues to advocate to the Commonwealth Department of Health to secure a sector delegation meeting to further discuss the proposal; and it was also noted that recent conversations between members and the Commonwealth Department of Health indicate their continued attention to the proposal.

Further opportunities for advocacy will be identified and discussed with the Committee as they arise, with the potential for an out-of-session meeting to be convened for more detailed consideration.

Regional and remote transport

It was noted that the future of the Eye and Ear Surgical Support Services (EESSS) program is still unconfirmed although it is expected for the program to be ongoing. It was acknowledged that clarity is required as it is important to ensure a regular and consistent funding stream.

It was acknowledged that while it is not Vision 2020 Australia’s role to advocate to jurisdictional fund holders or governments, feedback from the state level is welcomed through the Committee platform to help inform sector advocacy efforts.

It was agreed that this issue would stay on the agenda but with no specific activity to be taken by the Committee.

Nationally consistent approach to subsidised spectacle schemes

Optometry Australia provided an update on progress made in jurisdictions reporting that discussions are underway in both Western Australia (WA) and New South Wales (NSW) to advocate for improvements in the respective schemes; and a broad review of the Pensioner and Carer Concession Scheme in the Northern Territory has commenced.

It was agreed that the mapping document circulated with the papers is beneficial to ensure stakeholders are in agreement on where jurisdictional schemes are aligned to the Principles for nationally consistent subsidised spectacle schemes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: Recommended implementation standards and where they need to improve.

It was also agreed that at a national level, the role of bodies such as Optometry Australia, Vision 2020 Australia and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) is to call on the Commonwealth to encourage jurisdictions to improve their schemes. 

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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