POSITIVE POLICY

Indigenous Eye Health Help

A Shorten Labor Government will invest $9.5 million to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander vision loss. Labor is committed to closing the gap in eye health and vision loss between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Shockingly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are six times more likely to suffer from blindness. However, 94 per cent of this vision loss is either preventable or treatable.

Addressing vision loss alone would account for around 11 per cent of the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Australia is the only developed nation where the infectious and wholly preventable eye disease of trachoma still exists at endemic levels.

And it only exists among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – where it is endemic in two out of three remote communities.

Leaders such as the Vision 2020 alliance of health organisations, including Fred Hollows Foundation and the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at the University of Melbourne are making great progress in improving Indigenous eye health.

Labor is determined to do more to support their great efforts and ensure that we finish the job and eliminate trachoma across the country. 

Equitable access to specialist and general eye health care services is critical to reducing high rates of preventable blindness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

However, there is a significant unmet need – around 35 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have never had an eye exam.

Labor will deliver additional funding to increase visiting optometry services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to address the gap in general eye health.

Labor will also increase funding for ophthalmology services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to address the gap in specialist eye health care service delivery.

To continue to drive progress towards the elimination of trachoma in Australia, Labor will invest in trachoma prevention activities recommended by the World Health Organisation.

With Labor’s additional funding we can eliminate trachoma from Australia by 2020 and begin to turn the tide on this endemic health problem.