eBulletin July 2014

Welcome to our new-look eBulletin. There is a lot happening over the next six months. We have a new Chair, a new Strategic Plan, and World Sight Day is just 12 weeks away. Articles in this edition include:

Message from the CEO

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Amanda takes the reins

On 18 June, the Board of Vision 2020 Australia elected Amanda Vanstone as its new Chair.

The resignation of Barry Jones as Chair after 12 years is the end of an era for Vision 2020 Australia, but the appointment of Amanda to the role is an exciting opportunity to embrace change and reinvigorate our push towards achieving our goals. 

The timing of the new appointment could not be better and coincides with Vision 2020 Australia’s new strategic direction, which members have contributed enormously to over the past year. 

Over the next six to 12 months, Amanda will take part in an exciting orientation program to meet members and see programs and services at work. Her first stop will be Cambodia next month where she will visit Global Consortium programs and meet in-country stakeholders, including the Australian Ambassador, to promote the work that the Consortium is doing. She is also keen to meet with Vision 2020 Australia members and see the work being undertaken across Australia. Planning is underway to arrange visits to coincide with Amanda’s availability over the coming months.

Many members have expressed interest in formally acknowledging Barry’s work as Chair. His contribution to the sector over the last decade has been amazing; the success of Vision 2020 Australia has been the result of his inspirational leadership and passion for eye health and vision care. A special lunch to honour Barry will be held in Melbourne on Thursday, 27 November, following the Annual General Meeting. Please put this date in the diary and help celebrate Barry’s valuable contribution and thank him for his commitment to the sector. More information about this important event will be available soon.

A new strategic direction

As Vision 2020 Australia and its members embark on an exciting time of change and commitment to a new strategic plan, it is important to acknowledge the significant gains that have been made over the past three years.  

Milestones achieved over the life of the 2011-14 Strategic Plan include:

  • development of an initial National Framework Implementation Plan (NFIP) with Commonwealth responsibilities.  This initial plan will lay the foundations for a move towards state and territory involvement ensuring a truly national NFIP

  • securing packages of support in the NDIS trial sites for people who are blind and vision impaired, as a result of strong advocacy through submissions, oral evidence and direct lobbying

  • inclusion of vision services on the list of Clinical Care Services available in Home Care Packages as part of the Living Longer Living Better aged care strategy

  • development of a regional strategy for Asia and the Pacific, which dovetails with the new World Health Organisation’s Universal eye health: a global action plan 2014-2019

  • appointment of Paralympian Jessica Gallagher as Global Ambassador. Since Jess visited Vietnam to see the work of Global Consortium partners in 2012, she  has been advocating to the Australian Government about the importance of the work being undertaken by Vision 2020 Australia members 

  • delivering Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium Avoidable Blindness Initiative Completion Report to AusAID (now DFAT). The report details the achievements of the Global Consortium in improving the eye health—and the lives—of tens of thousands of poor and disadvantaged people in Asia and the Pacific

  • rolling out Vision Initiative pilot projects across four local government areas in Victoria to target populations more at-risk of blindness and vision impairment 

  • securing an additional funding commitment from the Victorian Government for two projects specifically developed to support Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities in Victoria as part of the Vision Initiative Pilot Projects

  • hosting bi-annual Parliamentary Friends Group events at Parliament House in Canberra over the past three years. These events have been well attended by members and Parliamentarians, including the Prime Minister and key Ministers, and facilitated increased learning about the important work the eye health and vision care sector is undertaking

  • allocation of $16.5 million in the Federal Budget to tackle the blinding eye infection trachoma in Indigenous communities

  • inclusion of an eye health indicator in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework, ultimately strengthening the evidence base in the future

  • developing a suite of pre-election policy proposals in close consultation with Vision 2020 Australia’s policy committees in the lead up to last year’s Federal Election

  • hosting two successful Vision Summits last year with the Coalition and former Labor Government. The eye health and vision care sector was the only sector to secure all key shadows and this positioned us well with the new Government

  • appointing new Vision 2020 Australia Chair, Amanda Vanstone, who  will continue to enhance our reputation as a respected sector and further strengthen our voice with Government.

These major milestones culminated in the recent exciting Federal Government announcement of $1.126 million to support the development of Australia’s first ever National Eye Health Survey. The Federal Government funding in conjunction with the nearly $1 million already raised through cash and in-kind contributions from Vision 2020 Australia members and the private sector means that the survey will now go ahead.

This funding is a momentous way to bring a close to the former Strategic Plan and recognise our members’ hard work and commitment to the elimination of avoidable blindness and the full participation for those who are blind or vision impaired in the community. It also demonstrates the solid relationships that Vision 2020 Australia has forged with key members of Parliament and the respect that we have earned as a sector.

Moving forward, our key priorities have been identified and, working together as a sector, it is clear where we need to be by 2017. Here’s a snapshot:

  1. People who are blind or who have a vision impairment receive improved access to services and supports for independence and participation, regardless of age, in the national roll out of the NDIS and the aged care system.

  2. A National Framework Implementation Plan for Eye Health and Vision Care that spans all jurisdictions is endorsed, by the State and Federal Ministers, with implementation starting and new funding beginning to flow. 

  3. A National Eye Health Survey is undertaken, we have some clear evidence and the data is helping shape more efficient and effective service provision.

  4. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health is a priority for Government with recommendations from the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision incorporated into the National Framework Implementation Plan and evidence showing the gap is closing.

  5. Eye health is imbedded in Australia’s aid policy and the Global Consortium is delivering programs across Asia and the Pacific and significant progress has been made against Regional Plan objectives.

The new Vision 2020 Australia Strategic Plan 2014-17 can be seen downloaded from the Our Plan page on this website.

Get behind World Sight Day

With just 83 days to go, the countdown is on to World Sight Day 2014.

World Sight Day falls on Thursday, 9 October and the theme is Universal Eye Health.

This year, Vision 2020 Australia will be focussing on celebrating those who are at the frontline working towards the elimination of avoidable blindness or vision impairment. 

To bring these stories to life, Vision 2020 Australia will be running an online ‘Eye Health Heroes’ campaign and is calling on members to get involved. These stories will allow us to focus on the inroads being made in eye health and vision care but also enable us to highlight some of the challenges that still exist.

In the lead up to World Sight Day an event will be held at Parliament House in Canberra on 30 September.  As usual, this event will provide a great opportunity for members to network with key Federal Parliamentarians, so please mark this date in your calendar.

To put eye health firmly on the national agenda, Barry Jones and Amanda Vanstone will give a National Press Club address on Wednesday, 8 October focusing on the importance of eye health prevention. This very special occasion will undoubtedly benefit the whole sector.

A number of Parliamentarians have already committed to being World Sight Day Champions this year and will take part in a range of activities to promote World Sight Day through their networks and communication channels. Many of them will attend the World Sight Day event, give addresses in Parliament and raise awareness through traditional and social media.

A separate World Sight Day communication will be distributed in the coming weeks with more information on how members can be involved, and you will receive an e-kit in September with further content suggestions to promote World Sight Day.

A World Sight Day Facebook page will also go live in early August promoting events and providing further information in the lead up to World Sight Day—so stay tuned. 

Changing the way we communicate

After listening to what members want, Vision 2020 Australia is making a few changes to our communications. 

Our new approach aims to put members at the centre of all of our communications and ensure that you receive the information you need, when you need it.

As a result, we have changed the format of the eBulletin by making it shorter and more forward-looking to provide you with key information. This communication will now be distributed twice a year.

Supporting this is the new Sector News Alert, which many of you will now be familiar with. This fortnightly communication has been well received and is already doing its job of ensuring that members are across sector news and activities.  

Where there is a need to let CEOs know about urgent matters, a ‘CEO Announcement’ will be distributed by email. These communications will continue to be brief and designed to deliver important information straight into your inbox.

We have also reviewed our website and made some changes to benefit our members. 

To create a platform to better showcase members’ news and highlight the work that the eye health and vision care sector is doing, a refreshed version of our website front page is being launched today:

Finally, with the ever-growing dependence on mobile devices, we are developing a mobile and tablet-friendly version of the Vision 2020 Australia website which will be up and running in the next fortnight.