NACCHO eye health news : Indigenous eye health put on Coalition’s agenda


Pictured: Selwyn Button, Lisa Briggs, Jennifer Gersbeck, Desley Culpin and Hugh Taylor

CEOs from some of Australia’s leading eye health organisations urged the Coalition to close the gap for vision in Indigenous people at a Vision Summit in Brisbane which coincides with NAIDOC Week.

More than 40 leading eye health agencies attended the Vision Summit yesterday to meet with key members of the Coalition including Peter Dutton Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing and Andrew Laming Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health Services and Indigenous Health.

Jennifer Gersbeck, CEO of Vision 2020 Australia, told the Coalition there was a significant disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians’ eye health and more funding was needed to make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health a priority.

“Today the eye health and vision care sector called on the Coalition to commit $53.63 million* over three years to improve Indigenous eye health should they get elected at the upcoming Federal Election,” Ms Gersbeck said.

“Improving coordination and referral pathways and improving accessibility to services is the key recommendation in the sector’s Indigenous eye health pre-election policy and funding proposal to closing the eye health and vision care gap over the next three years,” she said.

“Uncorrected refractive error, cataract, diabetic retinopathy and trachoma are the main causes of vision loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” she said.

The Coalition Shadow Minister told the Vision Summit the Coalition would improve Indigenous eye health by reducing red tape, utilising expertise and working with local communities.

NACCHO CEO Lisa Briggs said some 94 per cent of vision loss in Indigenous people is preventable or treatable but 35 per cent of Indigenous adults have never had an eye exam.

*This figure is sought within the context of a five-year funding requirement of $90.75 million as outlined in The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision, 2012 (The Roadmap).

For more information: Louise Rudzki at Vision 2020 Australia on

(03) 9656 2020, 0414 784 359 or


NACCHO health news:More action needed on alcohol misuse among Aboriginal people in Ceduna SA

The CEO of the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA), Mrs Mary Buckskin (pictured above)  has called for more action to address the problem of alcohol misuse among Aboriginal people in the Ceduna area in the far west of South Australia.

“AHCSA supported the findings and recommendation of the 2011 report of the State Coroner following the inquest into a number of alcohol-related deaths in the area,” she said.

“We are pleased that some of the recommendations have been implemented. In particular, the expansion of the sobering-up shelter managed by Ceduna-Koonibba Aboriginal Health Service is clearly better meeting the need.”

However, Mrs Buckskin stressed that much more must be done, as clearly problems persist. “There is a need for a more strategic approach involving Aboriginal communities and their organisations in Ceduna and surrounding areas, as well as Yalata and Oak Valley.

“Currently, some actions taken by some agencies are ad hoc rather than being part of an overall strategy, and are not necessarily helping the problem.

“There is no single magic bullet to address it. What is required is a range of strategies developed with appropriate consultation, and introduced in a coordinated way.

“We need strategies to reduce the availability of alcohol; we need strategies to ensure that people with alcohol problems have access to health services where they can be properly assessed and offered treatment; we need appropriate rehabilitation services for individuals and families,” Mrs Buckskin said.

She added that people who have alcohol-related brain damage need to be properly assessed and provided with appropriate services.

“Above all, it must be recognised that the people at most risk of alcohol-related harm or death come from the communities further west. A comprehensive strategy to deal with alcohol problems in the Ceduna area must include supporting people to return to their country and ensuring that the communities concerned are adequately resourced to support this happening.

“While this will require significant resources, in the long run a coordinated comprehensive strategy will save lives and money. And this is really an issue of human dignity,” Mrs Buckskin said.

The Aboriginal Health Council of SA Inc. (AHCSA) is the peak body representing Aboriginal community controlled health and substance misuse services, and Aboriginal health advisory committees across South Australia. AHCSA is an affiliate of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

ENDS. For further information contact: Mrs Mary Buckskin, Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia Inc., 08 8273 7200.