Vision 2020 Australia has welcomed Labor’s $9 million funding commitment announcement today to improve essential eye health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten made the announcement in Parliament following the release of the eighth Closing the Gap Report, acknowledging the widening disparity in eye health between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Vision 2020 Australia CEO Jennifer Gersbeck said Indigenous eye health was out of line with the rest of Australia, accounting for 11 per cent of the current gap in health, and Labor’s funding commitment would help close the gap.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are six times more likely to be blind and three times more likely to be vision impaired than mainstream Australia. The simple fact is, we need to see more Indigenous people around the country getting access to eye health services on the ground,” Ms Gersbeck said.
“Labor’s commitment will help to deliver more glasses into the hands of Indigenous Australians, increase the cataract surgery rate and ensure more can be done to slow the prevalence of diabetes-related eye disease,” she said.
Ms Gersbeck called for the Prime Minister, Mr Malcom Turnbull to match the Labor Government’s commitment.
Chair of the Vision 2020 Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee and Manager of The Fred Hollows Foundation Indigenous Australia Program, Ms Jaki Barton also welcomed the commitment.
“The truth is many cases of blindness and vision loss can be fixed overnight with the right coordination and access to services,” Ms Barton said.
“The sobering fact is we can prevent or treat 94 per cent of all cases of blindness and vision loss among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
“Ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids are getting access to glasses to see the board at school and that mums and dads are getting back to work through timely access to cataract surgery is critical to close the gap, not just in health, but across every aspect of life.”
Louise Rudzki, Vision 2020 Australia, (03) 9656 2020, +61 414 784 359, firstname.lastname@example.org