Media statement on Labor funding of Indigenous Eye Health

The announcement today by Opposition leader Bill Shorten of $13 million to support Indigenous eye health is warmly welcomed. This was included in a packet of $115 million to cover a range of health issues in Indigenous communities including youth suicide, rheumatic heart disease, sexual health and smoking.

This announcement shows the strong and long-term commitment that Labor has made to address eye health and Close the Gap for Vision.

Although Aboriginal children start life with much better vision than mainstream children, Indigenous adults aged 40 and above still have three times as much blindness. Almost all of the vision loss could be prevented or treated, but a third have never had an eye exam.

Great gains have been made over the past eight years with strong bipartisan support. There has been a substantial increase in funding and support of eye care making this one of the few areas where real progress is being made to Close the Gap.

The development of regional groups has been the key to providing better eye care. The support announced today will fund the development of regional hubs and stakeholder networks across the country. These regional hubs are the key to providing appropriate local services properly integrated with community-controlled primary care.

The additional outreach funding will enable optometrists supported by the Visiting Optometrist Scheme and ophthalmologists supported by the Rural Health Outreach Fund to fully meet the population-based needs for eye care. These visiting outreach services must be funded to be able to meet the population-based needs.

Further, the additional support provides for the local case-management and coordination of eye services will make sure that the patient journey or pathway of care is properly supported for patients with eye care needs.

The recent COAG Health Council adopted the mission to end avoidable blindness proposed by Minister Wyatt. This largely embodies the five year plan developed by the sector through Vision 2020 Australia, “Strong eyes, strong communities”.

The announcement today by Mr Shorten of $13 million to support work on Indigenous eye health is very warmly received. Further support will be needed over the next few years to fully implement appropriate eye care across the country and to develop the capacity of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to develop and provide appropriate eye care in a primary health setting. Funding is also required for ongoing reports from AIHW and a follow-up National Eye Health Survey.

Professor Hugh Taylor AC of the University of Melbourne Indigenous Eye Health

0417 017 037 | h.taylor@unimelb.edu.au | www.iehu.unimelb.edu.au

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Professor Hugh Taylor

03 8344 9320