The 2023 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Awards
The 2023 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Awards recognise achievements and contributions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health. These sector awards, formerly known as the Leaky Pipe Awards, have been handed out to champions and unsung heroes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye care annually as part of the sector’s national conferences since 2018.
The awards are aligned with the Conference theme – Our Vision in Our Hands: Finding our Voice – set by the National Experts Group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health (NEGATSIEH), which contributes to the Conference Leadership Group.
This broad theme works to highlight and promote the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and leadership in the eye health sector locally and nationally. The theme also promotes the need for greater First Nations leadership through community-controlled services and evolving national governance mechanisms, including the call to enshrine an Indigenous voice into the Australian constitution.
We are pleased to open nominations for the 2023 awards, in the following categories:
- Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health by Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO)
- Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health (Individual)
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in eye health
- Allyship in contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health
We are particularly interested in identifying and acknowledging the many ‘unsung heroes’ in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health.
The 2023 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Awards were presented during the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference 2023 on Dharug country, 24-26 May 2023.
The 2023 Image: 2023 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Award winners: Ben Hamlyn, Shannon Davies, Walgett AMS (accepted by Jenny Hunt) and Janet Richardson (accepted by Kerry Woods)
The winner of the NATSIEHC 2023 award for Exceptional contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health by Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO) is: Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service
- From the nomination statement: The Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service (WAMS) was one of the first eye health locations within an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service in NSW to provide bulk billed optometry services to their community members, starting in 1999 through NSW Aboriginal Vision program, co-designed with the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC) and the Brien Holden Foundation (then known as ICEE). The fruit of those early seeds of collaboration continue to flourish today.
- The nomination highlighted the dedication and commitment of WAMS management to eye health, as they have continued to fund a dedicated Eye Health Coordinator position since the very beginning of this program until today.
- The WAMS Eye Health Coordinator supports clinics in Walgett and outreach services at Lightning Ridge, Goodooga, Collarenebri, Narrabri, Wee Waa and Pilliga.
- Up until 2015 the WAMS Eye Health Coordinator serviced both the Walgett and Hunter New England regions, supporting over 30 outreach clinics. WAMS worked with the support of optometry provider the Brien Holden Foundation to hand some of the Western NSW and Hunter New England clinics over to the established Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in those communities.
- WAMS embraced eye health so much that they applied for infrastructure grants to establish a well-equipped dedicated eye health room. Local outreach patients are referred into WAMS when OCT imaging in required which eliminates travel for patients so eye health conditions can be managed locally.
Congratulations to the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service
Image: Nick Wilson with Jenny Hunt, who accepted the award for Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service (WAMS)
The winner of the NATSIEHC 2023 Outstanding leadership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health award is: Janet Richardson
- From the nomination statement: Janet has been involved in eye health for many years. She is currently based in Broome working as an Aboriginal Health Worker. As a respected elder of Barrd “Ooranyg” (Woman) from the Dampier Peninsula and Yawuru “Jandu” (Ngala Jandu -Saltwater Woman) from Broome, she has also been a community ambassador for the new Lions Outback Vision Kimberley Hub. Janet’s journey with health care began when she was 15. She trained as a nurse and worked at the Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS) as technical assistant at Pathwest. In eye health, she has worked at the Fred Hollows Foundation and was based in the East Arnhem Region for 15 years as the Eye Health Coordinator and then worked for a period of time in WA Country Health Service (WACHS) as the Trachoma program coordinator. She is now back home in Broome and playing an important role in connecting her community to the eye care pathway. She says: “A healer has a special place in the community, is a promoter of health who will always regard persons who have taught them their craft, from this I have learnt and carried throughout my whole life the responsibility and honesty to maintain confidentiality entrusted to me for my job performance.”
Congratulations to Janet Richardson
Image: Lauren Hutchinson with Kerry Woods who accepted the award on behalf of Janet Richardson
The winner of the NATSIEHC 2023 Emerging leadership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health award is: Shannon Davies
- From the nomination statement: Shannon is Australia’s first Indigenous woman to graduate in optometry. She grew up in Mareeba, a small town with a population of around 7,000 in Far North Queensland. She comes from the Wiradjuri People of Dubbo in New South Wales. After completing her optometry degree at the University of Melbourne in 2004, she has become a pioneer for her people in the field of optometry, working in rural parts of Australia conducting school screenings and providing spectacles and eye care for Indigenous patients in remote clinics. Shannon owns a private optometry practice in Ayr Queensland. Shannon has been a member of the Optometry Australia Aboriginal Advisory Group. She is currently Deputy Chair of the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand Indigenous Strategy Taskforce and a member of the OCANZ Board.
- Shannon’s pioneering work exemplifies this year’s theme of Our Vision in Our Hands: Finding our Voice and she is a leader in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health.
Congratulations to Shannon Davies
Image: Nick WIlson with Shannon Davies
The winner of the NATSIEHC 2023 Deadly allyship in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health award is: Ben Hamlyn
- From the nomination statements: Ben Hamlyn is an Adelaide based optometrist who has spent the last 10+ years working in remote communities to improve accessibility and quality of eyecare for first nations people living in the APY lands, Coober Pedy and Port Augusta. It is worth noting that Ben received no less than 4 separate nominations, a testament to the impact Ben continues to have on his colleagues. Ben has made significant contributions to the health and well-being of the Anangu of the Pitajtjantjara Yankuntjatjara Lands South Australia, and throughout the regions where he works. Ben has conducted hundreds of eye checks, providing prescription glasses to people who would have otherwise struggled with daily living activities. Ben has also worked closely with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and their eye nurses and coordinators in developing community-based eye health programs that focus on prevention and early intervention, which are critical for reducing the incidence of eye disease among Indigenous communities. Ben has expanded Community Eyecare (the name under which he practices) from just himself a couple of years ago, to a team of 5 optometrists and growing, allowing for a significant increase in services given across the state. Ben not only still visits and sees these patients, but also coordinates the team and organises each clinic, corresponding with communities, funding bodies, and individuals to provide a seamless structure and an effective delivery of excellent service. Ben’s commitment to Indigenous eye health is evident in all aspects of his work, from his clinical practice to his advocacy for the provision of funded prescription glasses and policy work in his role at Optometry Australia.
Congratulations to Ben Hamlyn
Image: Lauren Hutchinson with Ben Hamlyn