The Observatory

Dedicated to closing the gap for vision

Leadership Inspiring Change

Shannon Peckham is Australia’s first Indigenous woman to graduate in Optometry, writes about volunteering in remote Indigenous communities and what it means to her to be a leader who is inspiring change.

Shannon Peckham testing a Indigenous woman's eyes

  • What was your inspiration to enter your chosen profession?

Prior to my studies in optometry I had never had an eye test. I always knew I wanted to go to university but it was only upon suggestion from a friend that I considered optometry. I think for many Aboriginal youths, particularly those in remote locations, lack of exposure to professional health services, like optometry mean that the specialised health professions are often missed as a career choice.

  • What do you want to see happen in your community? 

I want to see the vision gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians closed. I want eye care services to be readily available to all Australians, offering affordable provision of spectacles and timely tertiary treatment. No Indigenous person with diabetes should have to go more than one year without an eye examination.

  • How do you see the work that you do contributing towards this goal?

Through working for OPSM I have been given the opportunity to volunteer for its charity partner OneSight. Globally, OneSight is dedicated to eradicating the vision care crisis in our lifetime. During my time volunteering for Onesight I have worked in several remote communities within the Gulf of Carpenteria region as well as Palm Island.

  • What drives you to achieve this goal?

It is indescribably rewarding to be able to help someone to see as it is a gift that can greatly impact day-to-day life. Lack of access to vision services is a significant factor contributing to poor Indigenous eye health in remote communities. My work within these communities has inspired me to make a difference and give back to my people utilising my professional skills.

  • What does leadership mean to you?

Leaders have a vision that creates belief among others to share their cause. This belief engages people to bring the vision to life and great things begin to happen. Seeing these health professionals in their community raises awareness of not only the health message but the health profession. As an Aboriginal person I feel empowered to be able to work within community and let people know that there are options for our people to be specialised health care providers.

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About the Author

Shannon Peckham

Shannon is Australia’s first Indigenous woman to graduate in optometry. She grew up in Mareeba, a small town with a population of around 7,000 in Far North Queensland. She comes from the Wiradjuri People of Dubbo in New South Wales. After completing her optometry degree in 2004, she has become a pioneer for her people in the field of optometry, working in rural parts of Australia conducting school screenings and providing spectacles and eye care for Indigenous patients in remote clinics.View author's posts
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