This year has been an eventful and productive one for the sector. The lead up to the Federal Election was an opportune time to come together as a sector and bolster advocacy efforts, and the success of this collaboration can be seen in the many highlights throughout 2013. Personally my top ten highlights were:
1) Commitment on the National Framework Implementation Plan
Following the endorsement of the World Health Organisation’s Global Action Plan at the World Health Assembly in May, a commitment was secured from the Australian Government to develop the National Framework Implementation Plan (NFIP). Importantly, the inclusion of low vision and rehabilitation in the new Global Action Plan ensures that the NFIP will go further than Australia’s National Framework for Action to Promote Eye Health and Prevent Avoidable Blindness and Vision Loss leading to effective outcomes for the whole sector. Vision 2020 Australia and its members were also instrumental in securing a commitment from the Australian Government to action the inclusion of a set of national eye health indicators in the NFIP.
2) Development of pre-election policy proposals
In the lead up to the Federal Election, a suite of pre-election policy proposals were developed, in close consultation with Vision 2020 Australia’s policy committees. Designed to inform federal parliamentarians of what is needed to achieve Vision 2020 Australia’s goal of eliminating avoidable blindness and reducing the impact of vision loss by 2020, the proposals provide a strategic approach to ensure that Australia successfully meets its international obligations and offer key recommendations that recognise and complement the World Health Organisation’s Universal eye health: a global action plan 2014-2019, on a global, national and local level.
3) Hosting two Vision Summits
Vision 2020 Australia held two Vision Summits in the lead up to the Federal Election: one with the Coalition and the other with the former Labor Government. The purpose was to facilitate discussion and dialogue between the various parties on a range of eye health and vision care issues with more than 40 CEOs from member organisations across Australia attending each of the Summits. The strength of collaboration within the sector was evident to the former Labor Government and the Coalition, as no other sector came together in this way to collectively advocate for policy change and funding.
4) Avoidable Blindness Initiative Completion Report
In June, the Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium Avoidable Blindness Initiative Completion Report was delivered to AusAID (now DFAT). The report details the achievements of the Global Consortium in improving the eye health—and the lives—of tens of thousands of poor and disadvantaged people in Asia and the Pacific over the last three years.
5) Disability Inclusion focus at the Parliamentary Friends Group
Professor Emeritus Ron McCallum, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities introduced CBM Australia’s Disability Inclusion in Eye Health Programs guide at the Parliamentary Friends Group breakfast in March. It is a user-friendly guide for all eye health practitioners outlining key principles of disability inclusion, practical tips and case studies. He spoke about his personal experiences as a blind man and stressed how important it is that people with a disability are included in development programs globally. The event was also attended by the Chair of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Australia, Major General Michael Jeffery AC AO (mil) CVO MV (Ret’d).
6) Participation in the NDIS public consultation process
Vision 2020 Australia and members actively participated in the public consultation process for the development of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), resulting in provisions for low vision and rehabilitation being included in the scheme. Specifically, submissions were made to the proposed statements on eligibility and reasonable and necessary support under an NDIS, the draft NDIS Bill 2012, the Regulation Impact Statement and the NDIS Rules Consultation Paper.
7) 2013 Federal Budget Announcements
The Federal Budget saw two notable funding announcements for the sector. The first was the commitment of $39 million to tackle avoidable blindness in Asia and the Pacific and the other was for $16.5 million for trachoma initiatives in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Both of these announcements were welcomed by the sector, however with a new Australian Government and a number of state elections looming, advocacy for sector funding and support to achieve our goal—the elimination of avoidable blindness and reducing the impact of vision loss by 2020—is more important than ever.
8) Asia Pacific Regional Strategy
In close consultation with members of Vision 2020 Australia’s Global Committee, a regional strategy was developed for Asia and the Pacific which dovetails with the new World Health Organisation’s Universal eye health: a global action plan 2014-2019 and includes specific objectives and indicators to achieve the goal of reducing avoidable blindness and vision impairment and ensuring disability inclusion in the region over the next seven years.
9) Members drive World Sight Day
This year’s World Sight Day saw more member activity than ever before, and the results can be seen in the sheer amount of traditional and online media coverage. Of particular note is how Twitter came alive with World Sight Day messages in the lead up and on the day with unprecedented member organisations engaging in social media, posting on Facebook, sending their own tweets and using a WSD hash-tag. A huge number of Vision 2020 Australia’s tweets were re-tweeted by members and followers globally.
10) Launching the Vision Initiative pilot projects
On World Sight Day Victorian Health Minister, the Hon David Davis MLC launched the Vision Initiative pilot projects being rolled out in the Victorian local government areas of Darebin, Greater Geelong, Greater Shepparton and Latrobe. These areas have been identified as more at-risk of blindness and vision loss due to a higher proportion of risk factors in their communities. The projects received coverage in both metropolitan and regional media from print, online and broadcast outlets.
This is only a handful of highlights from 2013. Once again, as a sector we have achieved so much. Our efforts are making a difference locally, nationally and globally. I will leave you with the World Sight Day message from the Hon Bob McMullan, in which he acknowledges the tireless efforts of the sector to make Australia a world leader in ‘Universal eye health’: http://youtu.be/S-4oDRnqgB0
I look forward to working with you all in 2014.