The Essilor Vision Foundation program, which commenced on 11 April at Mercy Community Services and Toowoomba Clubhouse, will see clients from both organisations receive comprehensive eye examinations from local optometrists and, if required, free prescription spectacles from the foundation.
Foundation spokesperson Mr Greg Johnson said, “Toowoomba has the right mix of agencies and schools to enable us to undertake pilot programs which in turn will be replicated across the nation.
“The foundation’s mission is to eliminate poor vision and its lifelong consequences with a goal of reaching out to citizens who simply don’t have access to eye examinations or basic prescription spectacles.
“Research shows that 54 per cent of the Australian population has one or more long-term eye conditions, many undiagnosed,” Mr Johnson added. These eye conditions included presbyopia, myopia and hyperopia.
Mercy Community Services caters for the needs of 4,000 refugees and migrants who have made Toowoomba their home in the past five years.
Mr David Barton, the team leader at the Mercy Community Services Cultural Diversity Hub, said, “Unfortunately with the raft of priorities our new citizens have, eye examinations and prescription spectacles simply aren’t on their immediate agendas. The foundation’s offer to screen our clients and to provide th with free glasses, if required, is a blessing which will enrich their lives.”
Toowoomba Clubhouse team leader Darren Marks said, “Clubhouse clients comprise citizens with mental illness and they often feel as if they’re left behind.
“The foundation’s program sends a clear message that there are organisations out there that do care and who are willing to make a difference. It will be interesting to learn just how many of our 800 active mbers will have better vision following this initiative.”
Mr Johnson added, “The Toowoomba pilot programs are likely to have long-lasting consequences for the nation in terms of rinding all citizens of the need for regular eye examinations, by eye-care professionals, and the importance of wearing correct vision aids.”
The foundation plans to undertake screening programs in two Toowoomba primary schools in May, involving over 300 children.
Similar programs in New Zealand in past months have identified up to 40 per cent of students requiring a comprehensive vision examination, following screening, with many subsequently needing the free prescription spectacles.
Following the Toowoomba initiative, foundation personnel will meet with education and indigenous affairs state and territory ministers across the country who have indicated an interest in learning more.
Queensland Senator Joanna Lindgren will be patron of the foundation and bring its national screening activities to the attention of other mbers of parliament in Canberra. Senator Lindgren is the grand niece of the Federal Parliament’s first indigenous politician, the late Senator Neville Bonner.
Pictured above: Greg Johnson, spokesperson of Essilor Vision Foundation