The Observatory

2012 sector highlights from the CEO

Jennifer Gersbeck

This year, together with our members, Vision 2020 Australia has continued to keep eye health and vision care on the public agenda and foster support among key members of parliament.  

While there were many highlights in 2012, personally my top ten highlights were:

1. PM acknowledgment on World Sight Day 

The World Sight Day Breakfast demonstrated the reach and relevance of the sector with the Prime Minister the Hon Julia Gillard attending a breakfast in honour of our Chair, the Hon Dr Barry Jones AO and publicly supporting the cause.  This was a very special day and being Barry Jones’ 80th birthday also provided the opportunity to recognise the decade of work our Chair has given to preventing avoidable blindness and reducing the impact of vision loss.

2. Eye health indicator included in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework

The inclusion of an eye health indicator within the framework is an important step for the sector as it means another data set will be made available to strengthen the evidence base in the future. Furthermore, it will ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health is kept on the government’s agenda. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee also endorsed The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision, prepared by the Indigenous Eye Health Unit following extensive consultation with the sector.

3. NDIS sector submission and advocacy

Vision 2020 Australia’s Low Vision and Rehabilitation Committee provided input into the sector’s response to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) legislation and developed a number of working groups to develop case studies to accompany the response which was submitted in September. The provision of a joint submission enabled comment as a sector and presented a strong voice for vision advocacy within the NDIS.  Advocacy that is starting to have a very positive impact.

4. Bi-partisan support for eye health and vision care

The CEO briefing in July was memorable as it was marked by the attendance of bothMinister for Health, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP and the Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Peter Dutton. Both expressed their support with the Minister committing to the development of a National Framework Implementation Plan and the Shadow Minister stating the Coalition will make eye health a priority if elected in 2013. This event also highlighted the relevance the organisation and its members have within the sector and provided members a valuable opportunity to interact with both key parliamentarians in an informal environment.

5. Lisa Briggs appointed CEO of NACCHO

Vision 2020 Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee Chair was appointed the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) in September. This is a fantastic development providing further opportunity for the sector and NACCHO to work together to progress Indigenous eye health.

6. Parliamentary Friends Group (PFG) event breaks all records

The June PFG was attended by 32 parliamentarians including Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and Shadow Ministers. Key parliamentarians were the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP; the Hon Warren Snowdon MP; Senator the Hon Jan McLucas; the Hon Peter Dutton MP. Notable guests included Peter Baxter, Director-General AusAID and Jane Halton PSM, Secretary, Department of Health and Ageing.PFGs offer an important opportunityfor members to interact with MPs relevant to the sector.

7. Visiting Global Consortium partners in Vietnam

Together with our Global Ambassador Jessica Gallagher, I visited Vietnam to view the work of our Global Consortium. Some truly amazing work is being done by Consortium partners in reducing avoidable blindness and providing eye care to those in disadvantaged regions. It was an inspiring visit that highlighted the direct impact organisations such as CBM Australia, The Fred Hollows Foundation and the Brien Holden Vision Institute have on people’s lives and the importance of funding such projects.

8. World Sight Day member support and media coverage

World Sight Day is an opportunity to raise the profile of the causes of blindness and vision impairment and this year the message was spread far and wide to highlight that 75% of blindness and vision loss is preventable or treatable. The wide range of organisations who got involved to promote the message, combined with the activity on twitter and excellent media coverage, all helped convey this important health message and keep eye health top of mind.

9. Diabetes Vision Initiative project launched

The Victorian Government continues to support eye health and in October a $250,000 Vision Initiative partnership project between Vision 2020 Australia, Diabetes Australia – Vic and the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes was announced by the Minister for Health, the Hon David Davis MP. This project will run for three years delivering information on diabetes and eye health to Victorian adults who are newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes registered on the National Diabetes Service Scheme.

10. The Hon Bob McMullan appointed as President of the IAPB

The appointment of the former Australian Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance to the top position at the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness is a major highlight for the sector and evidence of Australian success on the world stage.

That was just a few of the highlights for 2012. As a sector we have achieved much and I look forward to another memorable year with you all in 2013.

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About the Author

CEO Jennifer Gersbeck in a cafe

Jennifer Gersbeck

With almost 20 years experience working in the government and not for profit sector, Jennifer Gersbeck has been involved in a wide range of social marketing campaigns aimed at raising awareness, changing behaviour and influencing key decision makers. Jennifer has qualifications in Political Science and Business Marketing, is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and has worked extensively in the health and community services sector. Jennifer commenced as CEO of Vision 2020 Australia in October 2004. She has overseen a period of tremendous progress for the eye health and vision care sector, including the commencement of AusAID's Avoidable Blindness Initiative. Prior to her current role, Jennifer worked as the National Marketing Manager for World Vision Australia. Read more by this author →

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