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(L-R) Mitchell Anjou, Dr Genevieve Napper, Helen Wright, Genevieve Quilty, Skye Cappuccio, Lisa Penrose, Gary Crerie and Anna Morse at the Indigenous Eye Health Unit Roundtable on 13 March   Photo: Rachael Ferguson

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More than 60 people from across Australia attended a roundtable meeting in Melbourne to discuss progress in The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision. The roadmap makes evidenced-based policy recommendations to eliminate unnecessary vision loss for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The roadmap is being implemented in nine regions in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and the meeting allowed key people from these regions to discuss successes and challenges in achieving the roadmap changes.

Key speakers at the roundtable included Samantha Palmer, first assistant secretary in the Indigenous and Rural Health Division of the Australian Government’s Department of Health; Lisa Briggs, CEO of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO); and Professor Hugh Taylor, head of the Indigenous Eye Health Unit (IEHU) at the University of Melbourne.

IEHU senior research fellow Mitchell Anjou said optometry was well represented at the meeting, reflecting the key role and important work already being provided by the profession in indigenous eye care.

‘There remain many challenges ahead to implement the roadmap, not the least of which is the call for government to establish national oversight of indigenous eye health, collection of good data to reflect current activity and future performance, and the need for systems co-ordination to support health professionals deliver care to communities,’ he said.

‘We were delighted that people invited from across the country attended the meeting, in fact, we had to change the venue to accommodate those interested. The meeting allowed a very rich exchange of experiences, successes and lessons learned.

‘We enjoyed the support and input from CEOs from Optometrists Association, RANZCO, Vision 2020 Australia and NACCHO and so achieved a national perspective and had very strong representation from the regions.

‘We had Medicare Locals, state government health departments, Visiting Optometrists Scheme and Rural Health Outreach Fund fund-holders, and the key non-government organisations to complete the collection of stakeholders.

‘Our health system is complicated as there are so many players. It is a rare experience to have all stakeholders together. What is important is for everyone to be on the same page … working together to a shared goal. The roadmap facilitates this approach,’ Mr Anjou said.

The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision was published in 2012 after extensive consultation in Aboriginal, health, government and eye-care sectors. It has been endorsed by NACCHO, Optometrists Association, RANZCO and Vision 2020 Australia.

Australian Government support includes funding the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at the University of Melbourne to support implementation of the roadmap.

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