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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people advocacy update

There have been a number of developments with respect to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee (ATSIC) this year. One of the most pleasing is that ATSIC Chair Lisa Briggs has been appointed CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and continues as Chair of the ATSIC. Furthermore, a position will be funded by The Fred Hollows Foundation within NACCHO and a focus of this role will be to work with Vision 2020 Australia. These outcomes provide an even greater opportunity for the sector, Vision 2020 Australia and NACCHO to all work together.

In March the ATSIC endorsed The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision (The Roadmap) prepared by the University of Melbourne’s  Indigenous Eye Health Unit, following extensive consultation with the sector. Links have been made between the National Framework for Action to Promote Eye Health and Prevent Avoidable Blindness and Vision Loss (National Framework) and the recommendations of The Roadmap, and these have been captured in a detailed Advocacy Platform which outlines the policy environment in which the sector operates. Where links have occurred at the federal level they have been incorporated within a detailed Action Plan which sets out a series of actions to achieve the recommendations.

The sector has provided a response to the review of the Medical Specialist Outreach Assistance and Visiting Optometrists Scheme programs and is working towards finalising criteria for nationally consistent spectacle schemes.

The ATSIC will be preparing a sector response to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan discussion paper this month and members have been attending nationwide consultation sessions.

The Standing Council on Health met on 9 November and endorsed the fourth report of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework which included indicator 1.16 Eye health developed following consultation with the sector.

There was significant media coverage for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and vision care on World Sight Day. NACCHO issued a media release promoting key preventive messages and launched an eye health DVD, funded by The Fred Hollows Foundation and developed by the Victorian Aboriginal and Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) in collaboration with NACCHO, Oxfam and Vision 2020 Australia. Lisa Briggs was also interviewed by NITV and reinforced the importance of the need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have their eyes tested.

A core focus of the ATSIC in 2013 will be the development of a pre-election funding and policy proposal. As part of this process the sector will be promoting a series of high level advocacy messages which call upon governments to honour the Close the Gap Statement of Intent, commit to funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and the development of the National Framework Implementation Plan with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health. These messages were jointly promoted at the Indigenous and Rural Health Interest Group meeting during the recent RANZCO Congress.

There is significant alignment between the strategic direction of NACCHO and Vision 2020 Australia and much to look forward to in 2013.

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