The Observatory

Because of Her, We Can! – Indigenous women in eye health

To mark NAIDOC Week 2018 and this year’s theme ‘Because of Her, We Can!’, Vision 2020 Australia is celebrating the roles and achievements of some of the incredible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women working in the eye health sector.  

These women perform a range of roles across a number of areas in the sector, but they are all proud of their cultures, passionate about their work and driven to help improve health outcomes in Indigenous communities and beyond. 

Robyn Bradley, Aboriginal Health Liaison Officer – Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital

Robyn’s father’s ancestors emigrated from England and Scotland in the early 1800s and her mother’s family are from the Dhauwurd Wurrung peoples more commonly known as Gunditjmara in Western Victoria.
“I am proud to belong to this beautiful and ancient land. If you listen quietly you can still hear the dreamtime stories of our elders rustling through the bush, whispered over the dessert country and swirling around our brilliant coastlines. I am proud I come from this perfectly crafted tapestry of ancient first nation peoples, emigrants, convicts, pioneers, bushrangers and first fleeters. 
“I am also proud to share my passion for my culture and beliefs as an Aboriginal Health Liaison Officer at the Eye and Ear. I get to meet with community and act as a steward to help them receive the highest possible level of care – care that considers what is culturally appropriate and meets their unique needs.”
Robyn Bradley, Aboriginal Health Liaison Officer at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital

Aboriginal women of the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia 

Since its inception, the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA) has looked to the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women as trailblazers and advocates for better health outcomes for their communities. Currently there are seven Aboriginal Women working in various roles within the AHCSA Secretariat. The women’s kinship ties extend all over the country and all are united in their efforts to contribute to improving health for their communities, acting as advocates for increased and improved access to Hospital and Health Services and creating opportunities for their communities, particularly the next generation. 
Image (L-R): Sarah Betts (Sexual Health Coordinator), Ngara Keeler (Tackling Indigenous Smoking Programme Coordinator), Jessica Koncz (Student Services Officer), Jenaya Hall, (Tackling Indigenous Smoking Project Officer), Amanda Mitchell (Deputy CEO), Debra Stead (Senior Finance Officer), 
Absent from photo, Hannah Keain, (Junior Project Officer)
7 Aboriginal women who work at the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia

Keearny Maher, Occupational Therapist – VisAbility 

Keearny Maher is a Wiradjuri woman who specialises in vision impairment at VisAbility WA. Her cultural ties originate in Narrandera, NSW through her mother and Wiradjuri woman Ann-Maree Bloomfield.

“One rewarding aspect of my role is helping people find independence again after vision loss, particularly in the simple activities we all take for granted, like making a hot cuppa.”

Keearny’s role takes her all over WA, with some of her career highlights extending overseas, including volunteer work as an occupational therapist in Ukraine and India with children with varying disabilities.

Occupational Therapist at VisAbility, Keearny Maher

Rosamond Gilden, Research Assistant – Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne and member of Orthoptics Australia

Rosamond is a non-Indigenous woman in the eye health sector who is passionate about helping to improve health outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 
Upon completing a Masters in Orthoptics, Rosamond worked in the private and public sector. To pursue her interest in research, Rosamond joined the Centre for Eye Research Australia as Clinical Coordinator of the National Eye Health Survey. It was during this time she became aware of the poor eye health outcomes for Indigenous Australians and wanted to make a difference. 
In 2016, Rosamond commenced work with Indigenous Eye Health and is part of the Roadmap team whose goal is to Close the Gap for Vision by 2020.  Rosamond has used her experiences as a clinician to inform the current work that she is now undertaking and is grateful for the opportunity she has each day to contribute to a sector that has a sincere interest in improving eye health outcomes for Aboriginal people.
Rosamond Gilden


Jenny Hunt, Eye Health Worker – Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service in partnership with Brien Holden Vision Institute 

Jenny is a proud Gamilaraay woman who has been providing eye care services in partnership with the Brien Holden Vision Institute Aboriginal Vision Program for the past 10 years to the Walgett community.

“I find the eye program rewarding when I see the relief and smile on my people’s faces when they first put their glasses on. I feel proud. Also, if they do not attend their optometrist or ophthalmologist appointments, I will chase them up and take them there myself because I know how important it is for them.
“I have excellent communication with the outreach location workers and they do a wonderful job getting the patients in for our clinics. I travel to Narrabri, Collarenebri, Goodooga, Pilliga and Lightning Ridge for clinics as well as the one we run in Walgett. Without the help from these workers, there would be no eye clinics.”
Jenny Hunt standing in front of a sign for Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service

Faye Clarke, Diabetes Educator/Care Co-ordinator – Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative in partnership with Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne

Faye is a Gunditjmara, Wotjobaluk and Ngarrindjeri woman who works with Aboriginal communities in the Ballarat and wider Grampians region of Victoria to help promote eye health and help those living with diabetes. Faye is passionate about working in Indigenous eye health and was excited to work with the IEH team on the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision. 

“Vision is such an essential part of our life and when it is threatened it makes all the difference to someone’s quality of life. My dual role as a Care Co-ordinator means I can take on roles in both education and co-ordinating their path in the health care system.

“I am passionate about Indigenous eye health because of the work I do but also because of the clients I work with who are affected by threats to their vision.”

Faye Clarke from Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative

Simone Kenmore, Manager of South Australian Trachoma Elimination Program – Country Health South Australia 

Simone is a Yankunytjatjara woman from the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in remote South Australia. Simone works with Indigenous communities and health professionals across Australia to inform a model of best practice to work towards the elimination of trachoma in South Australia, and is passionate about improving health outcomes for Indigenous communities. 
“I have always been passionate about working in programs that contribute to improved outcomes for Indigenous communities. My work in trachoma is driven by the fact that it is a preventable disease. By sharing what we know about eye health, building the capacity of our communities and working in partnership across health, education and housing we can eliminate trachoma and prevent blindness for future generations.”
(Image and content provided by Indigenous Eye Health at University of Melbourne)
Simone Kenmore

Emma Robertson, ITC Care Coordinator – Karadi Aboriginal Corporation

Emma is a Palawa woman working in a health promotion role at Karadi Aboriginal Corporation in Tasmania, encouraging people to come in for regular eye checks. Emma believes this year’s NAIDOC Week is a great chance to honour the women who have influenced her and her work in Indigenous health. 

“I thinks this year’s theme is one of the best yet. I get to honour the women who were before my time that set the path that now enables me to work in my areas of passion around Indigenous health. It also makes me feel proud as an Aboriginal mum and the role I am playing in setting what I hope is a great role model for my daughters – that with hard work, determination and good people around you, you can make a profound difference in the lives of others.”

(Image and content provided by Indigenous Eye Health at University of Melbourne)
Emma Robertson from Karadi Aboriginal Corporation