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In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities face vision impairment at three times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. Yet the wait time for cataract surgery is currently 63 per cent longer.

At Vision Australia, we provide services to just over 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members in both metropolitan and regional centres. Although we are thrilled to be able to help every single one of these people, we know that we need to do more.

One of our major focuses within the next year is to do just that. Expand our reach, adapt our service model where needed and extend our services even deeper into remote communities.

This week marks NAIDOC Week, where we as a country celebrate the rich history, diverse cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

From Sunday July 4 to 11, the celebration calls on all Australians to embrace the cultural knowledge and values of the First Nations’ people.

This NAIDOC Week is particularly special to us at Vision Australia as it is the first year we have had a strategic focus on our delivery of eye health services to Indigenous Australians.

Our primary focus is to build and maintain relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities while piloting service delivery options in remote areas, like Alice Springs, to address the challenges of reach and sustainability.

Over the past few years, we have worked to form relationships and connections with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community groups and are committed to building and expanding on these relationships.

We recently put together a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which has been endorsed by Reconciliation Australia.

This included researching best practice and principles that support partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and conducting relationship mapping projects to understand our existing service delivery situation.

Not only that, we also plan to run a full review of our organisation to identify existing anti-discrimination provisions and cultural learning needs.

We want to look at further employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, who can bring informed and diverse views to our operations and our clients and help us to improve as an organisation as a whole.

Black background with a series of white circles and dots. From the centre, two pathways lead out to the left and right. They are filled with a series of orange and red dots
Caption: Produced by Holly McLennan-Brown, a proud Yorta Yorta woman, this artwork is part of Vision Australia's RAP. The circles in the centre represent the Vision Australia community and the U shapes represent people/clients coming together with Vision Australia. Leading from the centre of the artwork are pathways with paw prints along each pathway. The white lines leading off this are the various pathways and services that Vision Australia offer to people who are blind or have low vision.

We plan to increase our understanding, value and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories, knowledge and rights and ensure this is clear in the work we do every single day.

Celebrating NAIDOC Week is a crucial part of our RAP, and we’re placing an added significance on it this year.

Our focus this year is to ensure all our staff understand the significance of NAIDOC Week. Throughout this week we’re holding staff sessions with proud Bundjalung man and CEO of Corporate Culcha, Paul Dodd.

From myself as CEO, along with the members of our Leadership Team, we’re expecting all of our staff to take in one of these sessions to gain a better understanding of NAIDOC Week and its message this year of 'Heal Country, heal our nation.’

While 2021 is not the start of Vision Australia’s efforts to support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities, it is as a rejuvenation of our efforts in this area and we’re committed to continuing to improve how we support and acknowledge them into the future.