Labor welcomes today’s $2.5 million funding commitment to provide continued support to the Indigenous Eye Health Unit at the University of Melbourne.
However the Government must go further and match Labor’s commitment to invest $9.5 million to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander vision loss.
Shockingly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are six times more likely to suffer from blindness.
Australia is the only developed nation where the infectious and wholly preventable eye disease of trachoma still exists at endemic levels.
And it only exists among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – where it is endemic in two out of three remote communities.
Equitable access to specialist and general eye health care services is critical to reducing high rates of preventable blindness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
However, there is a significant unmet need – around 35 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have never had an eye exam.
That is why Labor last month committed to delivering additional funding to increase visiting optometry services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to address the gap in general eye health.
Labor has also committed to increase funding for ophthalmology services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to address the gap in specialist eye health care service delivery.
And to continue to drive progress towards the elimination of trachoma in Australia, Labor will invest in trachoma prevention activities recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Labor welcomes today’s investment by the government, but this must be just a down payment.
The government must go further and match Labor’s additional funding so we can eliminate trachoma from Australia by 2020 and begin to turn the tide on this endemic health problem.