Local, News

Australian College of Optometry announces new councillors and life members

Lauren Ayton and Michelle Waugh Australian College of Optometry

The Australian College of Optometry (ACO) has appointed two new council members and bestowed 12 awards including honorary life membership at its recent Annual General Meeting.

ACO members voted to elect Associate Professor Lauren Ayton and Dr Michelle Waugh – alongside reappointed council member Mr Timothy Powell – to join the council. The results were announced at the AGM on 22 June, following an election held earlier that month.

Timothy Powell
Timothy Powell

Ayton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, and the Department of Surgery (Ophthalmology) at the University of Melbourne. Her current research is in retinal disease and gene therapy, working with colleagues at the Centre for Eye Research Australia on several clinical trials.

As a leader in the profession, she has been the clinical team leader of the Bionic Vision Australia project, director of clinical and regulatory affairs at a Harvard and Cornell-affiliated start-up company, and is the director of SPARK Melbourne, a research commercialisation accelerator program.

Waugh was previously head of education in ACO’s Education, Membership and Marketing team and has served on Optometry Australia’s Medicare Benefits Schedule Advisory Group, and as treasurer on the Executive Management Committee of Clifton Street Childcare Centre.

She has been actively involved in public eyecare, helping improve outcomes in communities in rural England and volunteering with Brien Holden Vision Institute in rural Sri Lanka.

Ayton and Waugh join reappointed council member Powell, a rural optometrist practising in Northwest Tasmania, council president Mr Rodney Hodge, Ms Denise Gronow, Professor Linda Denehy, Mr John Chaney, and Ms Sophie Koh.

The ACO also extended its gratitude to outgoing council member Associate Professor Mitchell Anjou AM for his significant contribution as council member since 2015.

The announcement of new council members comes at a period of transition for the ACO, with the recent departure of CEO Ms Maureen O’Keefe after eight years in the role.


Also during the AGM, Mr Michael Aitken and Professor Sharon Bentley were awarded honorary life membership, ACO’s most prestigious award.

Sharon Bentley
Sharon Bentley

It is presented to those who have provided distinguished and meritorious service to the ACO and/or the profession.

Aitken and Bentley were among 12 members to be recognised for their contribution to the profession, which also included:

  • Dr Suit May Ho received the ACO Member Award for Outstanding Services, awarded to members who have made exceptional contributions to the ACO.
  • Professor Shaun Collin received the National Vision Research Institute Fellowship, awarded to researchers who have made a significant contribution to the practice and profession of vision science.
  • Ms Natalie Watt received an ACO Fellowship, awarded to members who have made a significant contribution to the practice and profession of optometry and to the community.
  • Dr Marianne Coleman received the Nicola Family Travel Grant, which supports young professionals as they begin their career in vision research.
Dr Suit May Ho
Dr Suit May Ho

The ACO also invited Australian universities to nominate their most outstanding optometry graduate through combined evaluation of academic excellence and professional commitment.

They were presented to:

  • Ms Janine Sing (Deakin University)
  • Ms Esmeralda Stefanopoulos (Flinders University)
  • Mr Shi Yue Feng (University of Melbourne)
  • Ms Stephanie Huang (UNSW Sydney)
  • Mr Lachlan Munro (Queensland University of Technology)

Lastly, the ACO Outstanding Graduate Award for ACO Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics – an award recognising the candidate who has achieved the highest score across all assessments for their graduating year of the ACO Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics – was presented to Mr Andrew McMillan.

More reading:

Race to identify inherited retinal disease patients for gene therapies

Send this to a friend