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New funding for Indigenous eye health ahead of election

01/05/2019By Callum Glennen
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Australia’s political leaders have signaled their intent to address Indigenous eye health ahead of this month’s federal election, following multi million dollar pledges from both the Liberal and Labor parties.

As part of its healthcare-focused campaign the Australian Labor Party (ALP) has unveiled a $13 million ‘Close the Gap on Vision Loss’ fund that would see $8.5 million committed to implementing regional eye health coordinators, as well as improved case management and outreach services. The remaining $4.5 million would be used to help establish a new place-based eye health centre in the North West of Western Australia.

“Vision loss alone accounts for around 11% of the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.  Wholly preventable eye diseases and blindness should be unacceptable in a developed nation like Australia,” ALP and Opposition leader Mr Bill Shorten said.

Judith Abbott, Vision 2020
Judith Abbott, Vision 2020
"With Strong Eyes, strong communities, Vision 2020 Australia made 24 recommendations to close this gap for vision. This announcement today is a great first step towards the total investment of $85.5 million needed over the coming five years to achieve that goal"
Judith Abbott, Vision 2020

The Opposition’s Indigenous eye health announcement featured in a $115 million Indigenous health package that the party claims “will put First Australians at the centre of decision making – from primary care delivery to health research”.

It also forms part of the ALP’s wider efforts to make healthcare a central topic of debate before the 18 May election.

In his campaign, Liberal Party of Australia leader and Prime Minister Mr Scott Morrison has announced a $160 million Indigenous Health Research Fund designed to deliver “rapid solutions to some of the biggest preventable health challenges” over the next 10 years. Vision loss and blindness have been earmarked as a priority area for the fund, however, it appears funding is yet to be allocated for a specific project.

Separately, the Morrison Government in February promised $3.8 million over four years to fund the University of Melbourne’s Indigenous Eye Health (IEH) program.

Vision 2020 Australia CEO Ms Judith Abbott said the ALP’s funding for regional eye health coordinators and outreach services, in particular, aligned with proposals the organisation laid out in its recently-published report titled: Strong Eyes, Strong Communities: a five year plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health and Vision 2019-24.

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“With Strong Eyes, strong communities, Vision 2020 Australia made 24 recommendations to close this gap for vision. This announcement today is a great first step towards the total investment of $85.5 million needed over the coming five years to achieve that goal,” she said.

“We also welcome the Opposition’s commitment to provide $4.5 million to establish a new place-based eye health centre to help meet the needs of people in the north-west of Western Australia.

“Supporting an active partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people will be essential across all these investments, to deliver culturally safe services that best meet the needs of local communities.”

University of Melbourne Professor Hugh Taylor, who established IEH in 2008, also issued a statement following the ALP announcement, adding that the funding was “warmly welcomed”.

“Great gains have been made over the past eight years with strong bipartisan support. There has been a substantial increase in funding and support of eye care making this one of the few areas where real progress is being made to Close the Gap,” he said.

 

More reading:

Indigenous eye health: $85.5 million more needed to bridge gap
Support for Pacific eyecare fund under Labor government

 

 

 

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