NATSIEHC22 Award Winners Announced

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Awards 2022

The 2022 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Awards were presented during the Conference Dinner. This is the fifth year in which sector awards are presented, and the second year under the current name.

This year we received an incredible 16 nominations under 4 categories. The selection panel was made up by the Co-Chairs of the Conference Leadership Group and the Chair of the Program Advisory Group. On the night, five awards were presented.

The selection panel noted that the breadth and strength of the nominations received is a testament to the incredible work being undertaken across the sector.

IEHU would like to warmly congratulate all of the 2022 winners of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Awards.


Image: 2022 award hosts, Lauren Hutchinson, Nick Wilson, Nicki Turner and Shaun Tatipata

Congratulations to the 2022 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Awards recipients:

Orange Aboriginal Medical Service for Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health by Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO).

From the nomination statement: Orange Aboriginal Medical Service have been working, with support from Rural Doctors Network and AH&MRC, on systems to better integrate eye care in clinical practice.

Their services include a retinal screening integrated in every Aboriginal Health Check or Diabetes check to assess the health of the retina and to detect and manage eye conditions and disease. Visual acuity is also measured in every health check and patients are referred accordingly.

Optometry services are provided by optometrist Lauren Hutchinson working with the Brien Holden Foundation, and Orange are reporting that optometry clinics are always fully booked with clients of all ages.

After years of working with the Western NSW Eye Health Partnership Project, including with Jane Hager (another past award winner!), a bulk-billed pathway into ophthalmology treatment has been established for Orange AMS patients. The NSW Eye Health Partnership Project allows Orange AMS to have ongoing contact with service providers and other ACCHOs in the region to best support the regional eye care pathway.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in eye health: Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia for the leadership of Michael Larkin and Chris Rektsinis in eye health in South Australia, with special allyship mention to Nicholas Schubert of Indigenous Eye Health Unit.

From the nomination statement: In 2021, AHCSA took on the responsibility of coordinating the quarterly run state Indigenous eye health committee – the SA Aboriginal Eye Health Working Group (SAAEHWG).  The committee has been professionally run since then with working group sub committee planning sessions and with reference to state level data and the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision to guide the priorities and work that has occurred to date.

The leadership provided by Michael Larkin in Chairing the committee and Chris Rektsinis in coordinating the group has been committed to service reform from the start.  The underlying principle of this being an action based group that identifies high level gaps in policy, workforce, funding and resourcing has led the work of this group and is already creating real change to improve access to care for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in South Australia.

As we mentioned, there is also a special allyship mention to Nicholas Schubert of Indigenous Eye Health Unit. This is also to acknowledge that the award winners and Nick Schubert have actually nominated one another for an award. From the nomination statement, “Nick worked closely in partnership with AHCSA to establish the much needed South Australia Aboriginal Eye Health Working Group (SAAEHWG), whilst concurrently identifying and/or establishing several SA regional eye health collaborations. One advancement from these engagements has been the set-up of several fast-track cataract priority pathways for Aboriginal people in urban and rural areas, and reinforcing the relationships between primary, secondary and tertiary services.

Will Chin, Allyship in contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health.

From the nomination statement: Will has been nominated “for his efforts to help improve access to eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in my community. His efforts go over and above personally delivering eye care and include the donation of equipment, training and upskilling AHWs/AHPs, providing mentoring, and advocating strongly for the redistribution of eye health funding to Aboriginal organisations.”

Will’s generosity and commitment to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health also extends to building capacity and capability in the ACCHOs he visits by donating/ upgrading equipment, expanding services and responding to the aspirations of the ACCHOs and the communities they represent.

He expects nothing in return and is content with seeing individuals and Aboriginal Organisations succeed in delivering eye care to their communities. And as a true ally, Will would also prefer to remain in the background and instead often assigns credit appropriately, and even uses his position/power to amplify our voice to fundholders. These are the actions of a true ally and an unsung hero.

Mitchell Anjou, Special allyship award for contribution to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health sector.

From the nominations letter: Mitchell lives and breathes the values of the 2022 Conference theme, ‘Our Vision in Our Hands’, genuinely seeking allyship, and to promote and advance First Nations leadership and ownership over the eye health sectors’ work and vision throughout his many spheres of influence. These span his work progressing regional implementation of the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision (2012) at the University of Melbourne, his commitments across the optometry sector through Optometry Australia, Optometry Victoria/South Australia and the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand (OCANZ), and his engagement with the broader eye health and vision care sector via Vision 2020 Australia.

Across his contributions to the optometry sector in particular, notably as Chair of the Optometry Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health Advisory Group, and co-Chair of the OCANZ Indigenous Strategy Taskforce, Mitchell has consistently sought to engage and empower First Nations people, through mentorship; the active creation of opportunities which seek to build capacity; and holding space for transfer of power and leadership roles as suitable. Further his personal commitment to ensuring that the optometry profession in particular takes strong steps towards reconciliation in all spheres has established and continues to strengthen progress among leading organisations in the sector.

Lauren Hutchinson, Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health (Individual).

From the nominations letter: Lauren is a valued graduate member of IAHA who is extremely generous with her time and knowledge, supporting positive health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and rural Australians.

Lauren has contributed significantly to the work of IAHA, including through her representation on committees, such as the Vision 2020/NACCHO Roundtable on Eye Health and Vision Care, and through her input on national health policy consultations. Lauren’s expertise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and her personal and professional experience working in a rural setting, allows IAHA to develop and inform policy to achieve true equity in health care.

As a student Lauren sat on the IAHA Student Representative committee playing an important role in building and promoting allied health workforce development and contributing to IAHA’s vision that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including future generations, are healthy, strong, thriving and self-determined.

Lauren is passionate about contributing to her local community. She believes in quality health care in rural areas. This is evidenced by her returning to her home town after uni and started work as an optometrist in Forbes. She has started a school screening program in her local area after noticing that the local Aboriginal kids weren't accessing the eye testing service. Lauren goes above and beyond to work with and for her community, including as a role model to future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander optometrists.

See full awards image gallery here

See full conference image gallery here

15Image: 2022 award recipients