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Indigenous Australians experience vision loss at three times the rate of the non-Indigenous population, many with the added challenges of accessing health services in remote communities.

Since 2020, Vision Australia has worked to establish a strong presence and sustainable practice in Alice Springs, guided by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Congress).

Congress – an Aboriginal community-controlled health service providing primary health care to Aboriginal people in central Australia and an advocate of Closing the Gap – has chaperoned Vision Australia’s development and delivery of culturally appropriate services, such as vision assessments and equipment trials.

This is in concert with Vision Australia’s 13-step Reconciliation Action Plan, to be transparent and accountable with Indigenous communities and put Aboriginal health into Aboriginal hands.

“The focus in Alice Springs is access to eye health for Aboriginal communities, especially for those who are blind or low vision,” Ellie Hudson, Vision Australia vision loss specialist and occupational therapist, said.

“By consulting Indigenous peoples, and with the advice of Congress, we have the opportunity to deliver a range of integrated health services that are both engaging and culturally appropriate.”

Vision Australia has asked local Alice Springs Aboriginal artist Curtis Haines to co-create eye health information in the form of artwork, and is producing written and audio formats in two local languages.

“These educational materials not only increase the accessibility of the information, but also help to keep these languages alive, and in forms that most resonate,” Ellie said.

Vision Australia chief executive Ron Hooton said the Alice Springs outreach is the first of many connections the organisation hopes to make in other remote communities, starting with Broome.

“By building awareness and trust and integrating with allied health providers, Vision Australia can understand the local needs and wants of blind and low vision Indigenous communities,” Ron said.

“To provide more vision-related services to more First Nations people, Vision Australia will continue to foster relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and organisations.”

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Vision Australia is a leading national provider of a wide range of services, equipment, training and support so people who are blind or have low vision can live the life they choose. See visionaustralia.org