Following a Melbourne University report that found substantial problems with Indigenous Australians’ eye healthcare, the federal government has announced a $6.5 million program that would see optometrists visiting remote aboriginal communities.
Importantly, the report had found that Indigenous Australians are six times more likely to be blind as compared with other nationals. Also, it mentioned that more than one-third of Indigenous adults have never got their eyes tested.
According to Federal Indigenous Health Minister Warren Snowdon, 106 communities, including 17 in South Australia, will benefit from the program. “The optometrists have been, I must say, very committed to improving health outcomes… What this will do is give us a greater capacity to spread their services across the country," he said.
However, Mary Buckskin, CEO of the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, points out that visits by the optometrists would not be of much use unless the members of the Indigenous communities were not taking a regular treatment.
In addition, there are some services that they will need to come into bigger urban centres such as Adelaide for treatment, but working with health services on the ground and coordinating these and some follow-up and supporting comprehensive primary health care on the ground will be a key to making this work.