The Parliamentary Friends Group for Eye Health and Vision Care Gala Dinner was held on Wednesday 23 June in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra. The dinner was hailed a great success and was well represented by 212 attendees including federal members of Parliament, advisers, government officials and representatives from Vision 2020 Australia member organisations.
The dinner was a celebration of the 10 year anniversary of VISION 2020: the Right to Sight global initiative and an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the past decade. Comedian Peter Berner was the master of ceremonies on the evening which was co-chaired by Senator Dana Wortley and Mr Andrew Laming MP and opened with a Welcome to Country address from Ruth Bell, an elder of the Ngunnawal people, the traditional custodians of the ACT and surrounding areas.
The latest Access Economics report into the impact of vision loss in Australia, Clear Focus, was launched at the Gala Dinner. The report found that over 400,000 Australians with vision loss could have their sight restored. Currently, almost 575,000 Australians over 40 have vision loss. The report estimates that the number of Australians with vision loss is projected to rise to around 801,000 by 2020 if these conditions are not addressed.
Professor Hugh Taylor, the Vice President of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness spoke about the history of the initiative and achievements over the last decade and Jennifer Gersbeck, Chief Executive Officer of Vision 2020 Australia, discussed where to go from here and what needs to be done as we count down to 2020.
Ms Gersbeck said that eliminating avoidable blindness and vision loss in Australia could largely be achieved through an increased focus on prevention, regular eye health examinations, increased funding and services for eye health and vision care, and continued research in the area. She also stressed that an increased commitment from government in 2010 will enable the sector to achieve its goal – the elimination of avoidable blindness by the year 2020.
'Vision 2020 Australia has spent a decade working with members to eliminate avoidable blindness and has made significant progress during this time. But in order for us to achieve our goal, we will need continued and renewed support and funding from government'.
Vision 2020 Australia and members commend the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing and the Hon Peter Dutton MP, Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing for their public support for the work of Vision 2020 Australia and the sector. As they noted, there are strong links between eye health and vision care and positive health outcomes.
The Hon Barry Jones AO thanked everyone for attending and acknowledged the continued support for the Parliamentary Friends Group for Eye Health and Vision Care dinners.
Vision 2020 Australia would like to thank and acknowledge the sponsors of the Gala Dinner, the Brien Holden Vision Institute, CBM Australia, Foresight Australia, Optometrists Association Australia, the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, The Fred Hollows Foundation, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and Vision Australia. Without their support this event would not have been possible.