Under sunny skies on Thursday 15 June 2023, Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation hosted a fundraiser to help close the eye care gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The fundraising target for the lunchtime event was $150,000 to directly support Sydney Eye Hospital’s commitment to providing equal access to care.
Guests and supporters rallied behind the cause and raised $200,000 which will be invested into much needed technology and equipment to be used at both Sydney Eye Hospital and in regional and remote outreach eye clinics in New South Wales.
Will you help us close the gap on eye care?
The event was described as a corroboree by MC Kevin Heath, a Butchulla man from K’Gari (Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia) who, among many other roles in the community, works as an Aboriginal Health Worker for South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD).
Kevin commenced the order of proceedings outside the iconic Sydney Opera House by overseeing a Smoking Ceremony, Acknowledgement to Country and a procession that mimicked a Dreamtime Rainbow Serpent of all attendees into the Yallamundi Room. He was joined by Indigenous men, Richie Chan-Hampton , Tyden Hennessy, Mat Marsh and Dylan Booth.
Distinguished guests included The Honourable Paul Keating, former Prime Minister of Australia, Peter Woolcott, former Australian Public Service Commissioner and Kate Foy, Group Deputy Secretary, Tourism, Sport and Art, NSW Department of Enterprise, Industry and Trade.
Notable attendees from SESLHD included Tobi Wilson, CEO SESLHD, Jennie Barry, General Manager of both Prince of Wales and Sydney / Sydney Eye Hospitals, Dr Pauline Rumma, Director Clinical Services Sydney Eye Hospital, Associate Professor Andrew Chang AM, Head of Ophthalmology of Sydney Eye Hospital and Chair of the Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation Board and Linda Fagan, the Foundation’s CEO.
Also speaking at the event were Peter FitzSimons a friend of the Foundation, SMH columnist, and author, including The Sydney Opera House book published in 2022.
Professor Gerard Sutton, Deputy Chair of the Foundation, and Indigenous Project Lead introduced four special guests from Moree’s Pius X Aboriginal Medical Service; Cathy Duncan, Chairperson Pius X, Donna Taylor, CEO, Rosemary Rose, Practice Manager and Carol Duke, Finance Officer.
Guests were enthralled by the music of William Barton, a proud Kalkadunga man, who is a celebrated multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and renowned classical composer. And Auctioneer Jason Kazanis entertained and excelled at ensuring all the big-ticket items that had so generously been donated went under the hammer.
Where the money goes
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are experiencing blindness and vision loss at three times the rate of other Australians. It’s estimated 35% of Indigenous adults have never had an eye examination, and when a condition or disease is diagnosed, they are waiting longer for surgery accounting for 11% of the health gap.
“It’s vital that we close this gap in healthcare, but it is only with community support that the imbalance can be corrected,” says Linda Fagan.
“Our Foundation Plan, created in collaboration with our stakeholders will provide access in three ways,” shares Ms Fagan.
Visiting ophthalmologists will provide clinical and surgical expertise in conjunction with local services at new and established outreach clinics.
A clinic with telemedicine connections and capacity to ensure follow-up locally will improve quality of care and outcomes.
A new culturally sensitive clinic for Indigenous peoples at Sydney Eye Hospital will overcome barriers to care.
“Our next milestone is to create a fully equipped culturally sensitive clinic for Indigenous peoples at Sydney Eye Hospital to overcome barriers to care,” says A/Prof Andrew Chang AM.
A/Prof Chang was the winning bidder of a personalised artwork by Indigenous artist Billy Reynolds. A/Prof Chang has pledged to donate the artwork back to the hospital specifically to adorn the walls of the new clinic.
“The funds raised from this event will be invested into specialist retinal cameras to be used in outback clinics as well as in the new Sydney Eye Hospital Indigenous clinic,” says A/Prof Chang.
Retinal cameras are effective health screening tools that take high-definition pictures of the back of the eye. They can detect treatable conditions that patients may otherwise have never known.
The cameras can be used by non-ophthalmic specialists such as GPs and nurses along with experienced ophthalmologists in the field at outreach centres. This equipment will play a vital role in emergency referrals for critical care from regional centres via our Sydney Eye Hospital’s Indigenous clinic.
“Imagine what we can achieve by introducing these cameras as part of the standard kit in regional and remote areas to deftly identify critical eye injuries and conditions along with diabetes, high-blood pressure, thyroid issues, auto-immune disease, and multiple sclerosis in the eye,” says Ms Fagan.