Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Sight for All Reception

Rod and I are delighted to welcome you to Government House, to thank you for your commitment to and support for Sight for All.

Sight for All’s work takes place against the background that, globally - including in Australia - more than 1.1 billion people are living with vision loss, that 90% of these are in low- and middle-income countries, and that 55% are women.

Staggeringly, 89% of vision impairment and blindness is avoidable.

In preserving or restoring the precious gift of sight, Sight for All’s work has profound long‑term effects.

It transforms lives by giving opportunities for increased education, for employment, for improved quality of life, and for escaping poverty.

Rod and I cannot commend highly enough the co-founders of Sight for All, ophthalmologists Drs Muecke and Newland, and Professor Casson, who, while volunteering on sight-saving projects in Asia, saw a gap in services that spawned an idea. In 2009 that idea became Sight for All and so began the determined, one might even say relentless, combatting of vision loss through early detection, treatment, and advocacy.

Since Sight for All’s founding:

Support has been provided to nine countries;

Thirty-three research studies have informed projects as well as national eye health protocols around the world;

Infrastructure support has been provided to support 369 clinical and surgical facilities; and

More than one million people each year have been reached through targeted projects and ongoing support, including, in only the past year, in Australia, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Mongolia

Yet it is the story behind these statistics that is the real story of Sight for All’s humanity, for example:

The implementation of collaborative programs in Aboriginal communities to combat diabetic eye disease, fly-borne trachoma, and cataracts.

The collaboration which has set up a free clinic at the WestCare Centre providing free eye examinations and spectacles to people in need. It is booked out.

The training of Myanmar’s first paediatric opthalmologist who, with his team, now provides 30,000 treatments each year and trains two of his own paediatric ophthalmologists annually.

The story of Boumlai who was in a school for the blind in Vientiane but, when tested as part of Sight for All’s Lao Childhood Blindness Study, was found to be sighted, but had never been tested for spectacles.

I know from my previous role as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade what a valuable role organisations such as Sight for All play in reaching the most needy in our region, and how this builds also capacity and contributes to Australia’s standing.

I thank everyone who supports this work - the small but dynamic team who are passionate about delivering sustainable eye health care projects both locally and abroad.

The dedicated group of ophthalmic and optometric volunteers – known as the Visionaries – who provide their expertise.

And importantly you, the supporters, without whose trust, support, and generosity this vital work would not be possible.

The vision that you all share helps transform communities for the better. Through well-directed philanthropy and commitment, big social issues that need to be tackled can be tackled and are being tackled.

May your heartfelt support lead to the day when, in the widest sense, there is Sight for All.

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