Sector makes World Sight Day a day to remember

Vision 2020 Australia has been calling for the eye health and vision care sector to get behind World Sight Day over the past few years, and in 2013 this call was well and truly answered with the theme Universal Eye Health and the call to action of ‘Get Your Eyes Tested’ spread far and wide! Our members called on their own members and, together with Members of Parliament, took to traditional and social media to fly the flag for World Sight Day on Thursday, 10 October.

Members organised a vast range of activities from fundraising drives, the launch of reports, projects and services, through to holding information sessions and the awarding of research grants. The flow on effect of these activities was instrumental in creating a buzz around the issues impacting on eye health and vision care.

Justin Mohamed with Get Your Eyes Tested sign
Image: Justin Mohamed with a Get Your Eyes Tested sign on World Sight Day.

John Jefferies with Get Your Eyes Testedsign
Image: John Jefferies with a Get Your Eyes Tested sign on World Sight Day.

A political message

Despite the uncertainty that the Federal Election brought with it this year, Members of Parliament across the country once again engaged with World Sight Day to help raise awareness of eye health issues. It was great to have the Federal Health Minister the Hon Peter Dutton MP attend the Macular Disease Foundation’s research awards ceremony in Sydney and the Victorian Minister for Health and Ageing the Hon David Davis MLClaunch the Vision Initiative pilot projects in Melbourne.

Close to 20 World Sight Day Champions were appointed this year from a range of portfolios and parties including Assistant Minister for Social Services Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield and Minister for Indigenous Affairs Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, Senator the Hon Jan McLucas, Former Minister for Human Services, and Senator Lee Rhiannon. Other Members of Parliament included Assistant Treasurer Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, Anna Burke MP, the Hon Darren Chester MP, Georgie Crozier MLC, the Hon David Davis MLC, Senator the Hon John Faulkner, the Hon Teresa Gambaro MP, Dr Andrew Laming MP, the Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, the Hon Philip Ruddock MP, Senator Rachel Siewert, Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens, the Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP and the Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP.

Amanda Rishworth, Jennifer Gersbeck, Matt Thistlethwaite and ShayneNeumann
Image: Amanda Rishworth, Jennifer Gersbeck, Matt Thistlethwaite and ShayneNeumann.

Many Champions showed their support through the distribution of media releases and talking about World Sight Day on Twitter and Facebook, as well as publishing information on their websites and in their newsletters.

Indigenous eye health

AFL Indigenous Ambassador and Essendon ruckman, Patrick ‘Paddy’ Ryder came on board this year as an Ambassador to help spread the message about the importance of eye examinations. Vision 2020 Australia in conjunction with NACCHO set up a media opportunity at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Fitzroy where Paddy had his eyes tested to encourage Indigenous Australians to do the same. SBS broadcast the activity on their NITV program helping to reach the Indigenous community with the Get Your Eyes Tested message.

AngelaHall, PatrickRyder and JenniferGersbeck
Image: Angela Hall, Patrick Ryder and Jennifer Gersbeck.

Launching the Vision Initiative pilot projects

In Melbourne, Vision 2020 Australia launched four new pilot projects, which will roll out in the local government areas of Darebin, Greater Geelong, Greater Shepparton and Latrobe. These areas have been identified as more at-risk of blindness and vision loss due to a higher proportion of risk factors in their communities. The Victorian Minister for Health and Ageing the Hon David Davis MLC and Parliamentary Secretary for Health Georgie Crozier MLC helped launch the projects at the Australian College of Optometry. The projects received coverage in both metropolitan and regional media from print, online and broadcast outlets.

Jennifer Gersbeck at Vision Initiative launch
Image: Vision 2020 Australia CEO Jennifer Gersbeck at the Vision Initiative launch.

World Sight Day coverage in media and social media

The support of the sector, Members of Parliament and our Ambassadors helped secure a huge amount of media coverage for World Sight Day. A study commissioned by Vision 2020 Australia, found that Australians fear going blind more than having a heart attack or losing a limb but are still taking their sight for granted. This report secured nationwide media coverage being syndicated to an estimated 386 stations across Australia. Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and CERA joined forces in the release of Out of Sight: A report into diabetic eye disease in Australia, which helped raise awareness about diabetic retinopathy in the lead up to World Sight Day across the country. Brien Holden Vision Institute released their report A Vision for All to See: A report on global eye health and vision care, aiming to raise awareness of the impending crisis of myopia and presbyopia and to create a call to action on World Sight Day.

Vision 2020 Australia Chair, the Hon Dr Barry Jones AO, used World Sight Day to call on the Government to commit to an eye health survey in an opinion piece which ran in The Australian nationwide. The Vision Initiative launch was covered in the Herald Sun and syndicated nationally on the online network; regional coverage was also achieved in the pilot project areas. Indigenous eye health was covered with National Indigenous television program NITV broadcasting Paddy Ryder getting his eyes tested while The Koori Mail ran a story on the activity. This year it was great having Channel Ten’s Dr Andrew Rochford on board and his support helped to raise the importance of why Australians should get their eyes tested through social media. Visit the Vision 2020 Australia website homepage to view the video of Dr Rochford getting his eyes tested

 Andrew Rochford with Get Your Eyes Tested sign
Image: Dr Andrew Rochford holding a get your eyes tested sign before his eye examination.

Once again Twitter came alive with World Sight Day messages in the lead up and on the day with unprecedented member organisations engaging in social media, posting on Facebook, sending their own tweets and using a WSD hash-tag. A huge number of Vision 2020 Australia’s tweets were re-tweeted by members and followers globally and Vision 2020 Australia also developed two info-graphics for use by the online community. Online publication MamaMia featured an emotive piece about ‘Why World Sight Day is important’ by vision impaired woman Tania Withers and Vision 2020 Australia’s Global Ambassador, Jess Gallagher, also blogged about the importance of World Sight Day, highlighted in Vision 2020 Australia’s Observatory.

We would love to hear members' thoughts about World Sight Day 2013, so please fill in the short WSD questionnaire to have your say: