NACCHO #WorldSightDayAU Aboriginal Health #Trachoma : Tullawon Health and our Australian Trachoma Alliance initiative to stamp out trachoma in Yalata community

The Safe Eyes program relies upon the effective engagement, ownership and leadership of the community to address hygiene and environmental health factors which lead to the spread of trachoma and other hygiene related disease.

In Yalata, Tullawon Health Service, with support from the Army and Australian Trachoma Alliance, has led the development of a community owned, culturally sensitive and sustainable program to eliminate trachoma, with significant changes in public health behaviours resulting.’

Major General Michael Jeffery, Chair of the Australian Trachoma Alliance pictured below at opening

Background : The Australian Trachoma Alliance (ATA) is a partnership between the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Indigenous Eye Health at The University of Melbourne and Vision 2020 Australia.

*University of Melbourne, The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision, September 2015

 ” And the prevalence of active trachoma among children in at-risk communities fell from 21% in 2008 to 4.6% in 2015.

The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision has played a part in prompting actions that contribute to this improvement. The Roadmap outlines a whole of system approach to improving Indigenous eye health, and achieving equity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal eye health outcomes.”

Ms Patricia Turner NACCHO CEO pictured above in November 2016 launching  The 2016 Annual Update on the Implementation of the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision

See NACCHO Report

Read over 44 NACCHO eye health reports published over past 5 years

Last weeks handover of a public amenities building to the Yalata Aboriginal community in South Australia marks the culmination of a two-year program to address the key causes of trachoma.

A road map of Yalata : Yalata Indigenous Protected Area (The Lands) is located at the Head of the Great Australian Bight, about 1,000km from Adelaide on the West Coast of South Australia. Situated northwest of Ceduna and south of the trans-Australian railway line, and east of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.

This is truly remote Australia and the only way to Yalata is by road.

Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection which can lead to blindness affecting 60 percent* of remote Aboriginal communities in Australia. The good news is that with effective planning and education, improvements in hygiene practices and living conditions can eliminate the spread of trachoma.

Brigadier Susan Coyle will hand over the new amenities building to the Yalata community, representing Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Campbell, AO, DSC.

The new building was designed, constructed and funded by the Army.

Through the Australian Trachoma Alliance (ATA), the Yalata community and Tullawon Health Service have implemented the ATA’s Safe Eyes Project to improve eye health and communicable disease outcomes for the Yalata community. The new amenities building forms the most visible part of this initiative.

Joanne Badke, CEO of Tullawon Health Service, says: ‘The Safe Eyes Healthy Lives program has been a successful platform towards eliminating Trachoma in the Yalata community.

The program provides education to the community on hygiene practices, provided hand sanitisation stations throughout community, addresses environmental health barriers, embedded good practices in the community’s child and maternal health program and has given us a brand new public amenities building to service the Yalata community and visiting communities to reduce the spreading of communicable disease.’

With funding secured through the ATA from the Army, Tullawon Health Services oversaw the building of the public amenities building which includes toilet facilities, showers and two club room spaces, all of which will be well utilised by Yalata community members and visiting communities.

‘This has been a huge win,’ says Ms Badke. ‘Not only do the people of Yalata have access to this facility, but they provide culturally appropriate solutions to the spreading of Trachoma.’




NACCHO Chair Press release: Yalata and Australian Trachoma Alliance partner to eliminate trachoma


The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation is proud to be part of an alliance which has signed an agreement with Yalata community in South Australia to stamp out Trachoma – a leading cause of preventable blindness in a number of remote Aboriginal communities.

Picture Above :Maureen Smart (OAM) the Chairperson of the Yalata Community Council (seated on right) and councillors sign the agreement at Yalata Community on 26 October 2015; and seated on the left, John Singer (NACCHO Board Member, Chairperson of the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia and Director of Nganampa Health Council) and Joanne Badke (CEO, Tullawon Health Service – standing behind the Chairperson of the Yalata Community Council).

The agreement between the Yalata Community near Ceduna in South Australia and the Australian Trachoma Alliance (ATA)* headed by former Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffery, commits to working together on an action plan to address the key causes of trachoma.

National Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chairperson Matthew Cooke said it was disappointing that Australia remained the only Western country affected by the disease.

“Trachoma is a contagious bacterial infection, which if left untreated can lead to corneal scarring and eventually blindness,” Mr Cooke said.

“In remote communities such as Yalata it is spread through overcrowding, poor hygiene and substandard environmental health conditions – all of which can be addressed by effective planning and education.

“Poor eye-sight affects learning, it affects health and it affects a person’s ability to care for their family, with devastating impacts on the welfare of entire families. We need to move beyond treating trachoma through surgery or antibiotics to preventing infection and reinfection in the first place.”

Major General Michael Jeffery said the ATA’s Safe Eyes Project was mostly funded by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Trust which is working to eliminate causes of preventable blindness in Commonwealth countries.

Yalata is one of three desert communities in central Australia taking part by addressing facial hygiene and environmental health, which will improve eye health and also help reduce the incidence of other communicable diseases such as rheumatic fever and gastroenteritis.

“This commitment has been initiated by the Yalata community – it’s not people coming in from outside and telling them what should be done,” Mr Jeffrey said.

“A key principle of the commitment signed today is the Yalata community controls the planning process so it works for them and builds on existing health and Trachoma programs, with support from the ATA. Community resources will be used wherever possible.”

*ATA members are NACCHO, The Fred Hollows Foundation, Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Australia, Vision 2020 Australia and the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at the University of Melbourne.

Key facts

  • A clean face and clean environment are key prevention strategies to combat Trachoma.
  • More than 50 developing countries in Africa and Asia are still affected by Trachoma
  • In 2009 the Australian Government made a commitment to eliminate blinding trachoma from Aboriginal communities.
  • Trachoma remains prevalent in many remote communities.
  • Like conjunctivitis and other bacterial infections spread by contact it particularly affects children.
  • In Alice Springs in 2014 the ATA convened a forum of Aboriginal Controlled Community Owned Health Organisations from the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia to discuss how trachoma can be eliminated in their communities.