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 SA marks the culmination of a two-year program to address the key causes of trachoma.

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 SA. Situated NW of Ceduna and south of the trans-Australian railway line, and east of Kalgoorlie in WA.

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.’

Alliance sets sights on final elimination of blinding trachoma in Central Australia

nac-35-aAboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, former Governor-General Michael Jeffery, government services, civil society organisations and not-for-profits will gather in Alice Springs from today to work towards the common goal of eliminating trachoma, the leading infectious cause of avoidable blindness.

Australia is the only developed country in the world where trachoma is still endemic and it is only found in remote and very remote Aboriginal communities in SA, WA and NT.

Major General Michael Jeffery will launch a Tri-State Trachoma Elimination Program today that will build on the progress that Aboriginal controlled health services, civil society and government service providers have already made on reducing trachoma in 200 at risk remote Aboriginal communities.

Major General Jeffery said the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust is supporting this program as part of a Commonwealth-wide effort to eliminate trachoma that will form part of a tribute to Her Majesty’s 60 years of service to the people of the Commonwealth.

“There is no place in modern Australia for the avoidable pain and devastating loss of vision caused by trachoma,” Major General Jeffery said.

“The Tri-State Trachoma Elimination Program launched today is an important step towards Australia meeting the global and Commonwealth targets to eliminate blinding trachoma by 2020.

“It will be a concrete step towards closing the gap in eye health, and will ensure all elements of the World Health Organisation’s S.A.F.E. (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental hygiene) protocol are brought to bear on trachoma elimination.

“This Program will importantly demonstrate a model based on Aboriginal leadership and community ownership of measures to eliminate trachoma in remote communities.”

Justin Mohamed, Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, said the program would help end the disparity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ eye health and mainstream Australia.

“Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people are six times more likely to go blind than the rest of the Australian community.  As much as 94% of vision loss is treatable or preventable. We can make a significant difference with strategies ranging from better access to surgery to cleaner water supply and helping schools to enforce hand and face washing.

“The vision and scope of this program is bold but developing countries with far less resources have eliminated trachoma so it is definitely achievable,” Mr Mohamed said.

Media contacts:
Jane Garcia (NACCHO) 0434 489 533
Dan Haldon (General Jeffery) 0434 633 449

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