Strong bi-partisan support to eliminate avoidable blindness visible at Vision 2020 Australia event


Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, Peter Dutton, were among the prominent guests in attendance at the Vision 2020 Australia Parliamentary Friends Group for Eye Health and Vision Care dinner at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday night.

Vision 2020 Australia CEO Jennifer Gersbeck said the evening was a stellar success and another opportunity to highlight the critical eye health issues for many of the parliamentarians in attendance and to celebrate the work that was being done by the eye health and vision care sector.

More than 120 people attended the dinner, including around 32 politicians, who turned up to listen to the distinguished line up of speakers from across the eye health and vision care sector.

CEO Jennifer Gersbeck welcomed the large turnout and the interest in the work that was being done to prevent avoidable blindness and reduce the impact of vision loss both in Australia and globally.

Ms Gersbeck praised the work of the Department of Health and Ageing for its leadership and commitment to addressing the elimination of avoidable blindness.

“It is a source of great pride to us all that Australia has taken a leading role in working with the member states of the World Health Assembly in calling for action,” Ms Gersbeck said.

In particular, Ms Gersbeck congratulated Department of Health and Ageing Secretary Jane Halton for her leadership demonstrated at the recent World Health Assembly in Geneva.

“Secretary Halton has now moved onto the Executive Board of the WHO and we look forward to working with her and supporting her in that important global health role,” she said.

Ms Gersbeck also thanked AusAID for setting a global example of best inclusive development practice in establishing the Avoidable Blindness Initiative and for leading efforts to address disability, non-communicable diseases and neglected tropical diseases, including avoidable blindness and vision impairment, as part of Australia’s international development program.

Brien Holden of the Brien Holden Vision Centre praised the leadership of the Australian Government but called for more to be done; urging all members of the Australian Parliament to support an increase in foreign aid to 0.5 of GNI by 2016 and ensure that preventing avoidable blindness and vision impairment remained part of Australia’s international development assistance program.

On a national front, Canberra ophthalmologist and Director of Vision 2020 Australia’s Board, Iain Dunlop,spoke about the need to strengthen the existing National Eye Health Framework through the development of an Implementation plan with clear indicators to enable effective measurement of our progress towards eliminating avoidable blindness and reducing the impact of vision loss for all Australians. 

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Chair Justin Mohamed spoke about Indigenous Australian eye health, highlighting the disparity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ eye health and mainstream Australia.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have six times higher incidence of eye disease than mainstream Australia, he said, with trachoma, uncorrected refractive error, diabetic retinopathy and cataract among the key eye diseases impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

He urged attendees to act to close the gap and improve access to quality eye care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Optometrists Association Australia’s National President Andrew Harris said prevention and early intervention played a key role in tackling avoidable blindness and vision loss.

The evidence base does the talking as 75 per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable, he said.

Executive Officer of Blind Citizens Australia, Robyn Gaile, closed the speaking commitments with a heartfelt insight into the lives of those impacted by blindness. She left the audience with a call for a National Disability Insurance Scheme that included the aids, supports and services required by blind or vision impaired Australians.

Guests were entertained by Parliamentary Friends Group Co-Chairs, Member for Kingston Amanda Rishworth, and former ophthalmologist and Member for Bowman, Andrew Laming, who continue to support Vision 2020 Australia’s advocacy efforts.


Media Contact

Louise Rudzki, Vision 2020 Australia, (03) 9656 2020, +61 414 784 359,