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Project Background

Currently Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are 6 times more likely than other Australians to go blind. But 94% of their vision loss is preventable or treatable and 35% of adults have never had an eye exam.

Since 2012, The Foundation’s Indigenous Australia Program (IAP) has been implementing integrated eye health programs in two regions of the Top End of the NT. These programming efforts, along with feedback received from regional stakeholders, have identified a number of gaps and issues which continue to affect rural and remote living Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ access to eye care services across the Top End.

These remote communities are only accessible by charter plane or long road trips covering difficult terrain, particularly in the wet season. This is often an insurmountable barrier for Aboriginal patients with the result that many live with avoidable blindness.  The Foundation’s outreach visits reduce travel time and costs for patients, along with the associated stress of travelling into big cities to receive basic screening and treatment.

Key Project Outcomes

  • 2,262 Aboriginal people screened during outreach visits to 33 remote and under serviced communities in the Top End of the Northern Territory.
  • 57% increase in number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Is-lander people added to elective surgery waitlists at Darwin, Katherine and Gove Hospitals.
  • 1 Indigenous Liaison Officer, 1 ophthalmology fellow and 1 outreach ophthalmology coordinator employed.
  • Significantly reduced the outpatient ophthalmology waitlists at the Katherine and Gove Hospitals
  • Secured additional eye equipment for Katherine, Gove and Darwin Hospitals to improve the patient pathway, diagnosis, treatment and surgery outputs.
  • Successfully lobbied the Northern Territory Department of Health to include $4.6 million in the 2016 budget for improvement in eye health, including an upgrade of the Ophthalmology Department and public eye clinic at the Royal Darwin Hospital.
  • Advocated for the inclusion of service coordination in the Australian Government's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health budget.
  • Secured additional Australian Government funding for coordination to improve the delivery of eye care services for all states and territories

Indigenous artist Peter Datjing Burrarrwanga. Photo: Daniel Jesus Vignolli

Case Study: Peter Datjing Burrarrwanga

Through support of this project, you have helped restore sight to many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote communities across the Top End. For Peter Datjing Burarrwanga (pictured), you helped restore sight to a Gumatj leader. Now he can continue to actively fulfil his responsibilities to his family, his clan and Gumatj people across East Arnhem Land in the NT. 

Datjing is a man of many talents. A proud father and grandfather, a cere-monial leader and song man, renowned artist, a well-respected hunter, teacher and musician; he has a crucial role in maintaining Gumatj law and culture. And through his exquisite and detailed paintings he proudly teaches the next generation about culture.

What next?

There is always more work to be done as we strive to end avoidable blindness. The Foundation relies on the continued support of our generous donors to achieve Fred’s dream of a world where no one is needlessly blind.

In 2016, The Foundation’s Top End Outreach Ophthalmology Re-sources Project will: 

  • Conduct outreach ophthalmology services in remote communities in the Top End of the NT 
  • Improve awareness and education of eye health and available services among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people living in remote communities across the Top End 
  • Continue to support the employment of an Ophthalmology Fellow, an Indigenous Liaison Officer and an Outreach Ophthalmology Coordinator 
  • Advocate to governments for sustainable investment in eye care

Can I visit this project?

Interested donors should contact The Foundation directly.

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