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History made with Australia’s first Indigenous ophthalmologist

27/06/2018By Matthew Woodley
Australia’s first Indigenous ophthalmologist completed his formal training yesterday, blazing a trail that he hopes others will follow.

Originally from the ACT, Dr Kristopher Rallah-Baker has been based in WA with the outreach program Lions Outback Vision since the start of 2018. Rallah-Baker said his patients were often excited to see an Indigenous face on the other side of a slit lamp during eye exams.


“Being the first Indigenous ophthalmologist in Australia is of enormous importance, both symbolically and practically, because it breaks barriers that were once seen as impossible,”
Kristopher Rallah-Baker, Lions Outback Vision

“Being the first Indigenous ophthalmologist in Australia is of enormous importance, both symbolically and practically, because it breaks barriers that were once seen as impossible,” Rallah-Baker said.

“It brings them great pride and joy to know that Indigenous peoples are achieving across all fields and expressing the opinions and cultural perspectives from within organisations to help improve lives.”

Rallah-Baker has spent most of his time in WA working on the Vision Van – a mobile eye health clinic that travels across the state delivering care for people with a range of eye conditions, including cataract, glaucoma, trachoma and diabetic retinopathy. He also mentors a number of junior Indigenous colleagues who are interested in ophthalmology, and has a goal of helping his people reach population parity with non-Indigenous ophthalmologists.

Associate Professor Angus Turner, who has worked with Rallah-Baker on the Vision Van, said it was exciting to see him complete the RANZCO Vocational Training Program.

“Kris is already making a big impact on the profession as a leader and advocate. With Indigenous Australians three times more likely to be blind than the general Australian population, Kris’ voice will help focus attention on this significant public health issue,” Turner said.

Rallah-Baker is also passionate about closing the gap, and he believes partnerships will ultimately help to achieve this in Australia.

“The Lions Outback Vision model is an exceptional example of the correct way to deliver appropriate, culturally safe services to rural and remote communities and there are many wonderful non-Indigenous doctors providing outstanding services to Indigenous peoples and communities,” he said.

“Ultimately, Indigenous health is about a partnership and working together between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Each party brings a different perspective to healthcare and solving the complexities of Indigenous health.”

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IMAGE TOP: Kristopher Rallah-Baker with a patient. Courtesy of Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association

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