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First Nations Special Interest Group

The IAPB First Nations Special Interest Groupwillchampion the eye health care needs ofFirst Nations/Indigenous Peoples globally.

Video Transcript

About the IAPB First Nations Special Interest Group

We have limited knowledge and understanding of the prevalence and causes of impairment and blindness for Indigenous Peoples, and even less understanding of how Indigeneity and key social determinants intersect with, and impact on, eye health. 

The IAPB First Nations Special Interest Group will champion the eye health care needs of First Nations/Indigenous Peoples globally through establishing a network of First Nations/Indigenous Peoples for the purpose of connecting globally and sharing of knowledge, research and evidence on best practice.

Inequality in eye health amongst Indigenous Peoples globally

We know that there is evidence of substantial inequality in the prevalence of vision impairment and avoidable blindness amongst Indigenous Peoples globally, and we also know that this is underreported and under-measured. More information can be found in the Lancet-Lowitja Institute Global Collaboration on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Health and by Foreman et al, 2018.

Further, First Nations / Indigenous Peoples continue to be excluded from the processes and decisions that are about them and that will directly affect them in eye health and all areas of wellbeing. However, evidence clearly shows that health outcomes are significantly improved when First Nations/Indigenous Peoples are involved in all stages of designing and delivering health care, from high level policy to the local delivery of services.

Why is this group needed?

A focus on Indigenous Peoples in eye health globally is critical.

Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing must be the driving force in addressing inequality in eye health experienced for First Nations/Indigenous Peoples across the world.  The launch of this First Nations/Indigenous led special interest group is a small but critical step in support of First Nation’s/Indigenous self-determination and ownership of their eye health care.

This year’s theme for the Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples  is  The Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge.  Right now we are presented with an opportunity to show that a new social contract is possible by combatting the legacy of exclusion and marginalization affecting Indigenous Peoples by allowing space for First Nations/Indigenous Peoples to be the leaders in their own eye health care.

The group will also be able to link into other global mechanisms, including IAPB working groups and Council, and leverage the potential afforded by global platforms, such as under the World Health Organisation and other UN bodies, to highlight inequity and barriers for First Nations/Indigenous Peoples’ eye health and successful measures in overcoming them. Recently, the UN General Assembly formally adopted the first resolution focused on eye health, that also recognized Indigenous Peoples and the need to ensure vision for everyone to accelerate action towards the SDGs, providing a future mechanism to work through.

Select the following tabs for more information about the First Nations Special Interest Group.

First Nations Special Interest Group is the working title of the group. The conveners of the group respect the right of First Nations/Indigenous Peoples to ‘determine their own identity and membership’ in accordance with the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (article 33.1). As such, one of the initial agenda items will be to discuss and agree on the name of the group and language to use when referring to First Nations/Indigenous Peoples globally.

The term ‘First Nations’ is currently being used as it recognises the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples. The group will recognise the unique and diverse cultures of First Nations/Indigenous Peoples globally and will use the specific names of Tribes and Nations wherever possible.

This will be achieved through both the group’s membership, chairing and principles. The group will be initially chaired by Jaki Adams, Director Social Justice and Regional Engagement at The Fred Hollows Foundation. Jaki was born and raised in Darwin (Larrakia Nation) and is of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent (Indigenous Australian), with ancestral links to the Yadhaigana and Wuthathi people of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, traditional family ties with the Gurindji people of Central Western Northern Territory (NT) and extended family relationships with the people of the Torres Straits and Warlpiri (Yuendumu NT).

Set of principles

All members of the group will also agree to abide by a set of principles that will ensure First Nations/Indigenous Peoples’ leadership of the group. These principles will be finalised after the first meeting of the group:

Uphold the right of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination, and free, prior and informed consent and all rights specified in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as a minimum standard.

  • Preference, privilege and prioritise Indigenous leadership and voices within the Group, including Indigenous Peoples with lived experiences of eye health conditions, vision impairment and blindness, and for any activities it undertakes.
  • Indigenous knowledges, and ways of being and doing lead the functions and activities of the group at global, national and local levels, as appropriate.
  • Ensure that any research is either led or conducted in partnership with Indigenous researchers or Indigenous research institutes.
  • Activities should have impact: research or data collection should be linked to improvements in eye health for the community and should uphold principles of Indigenous data sovereignty. Indigenous data sovereignty refers to ‘the right of Indigenous Peoples to exercise ownership over Indigenous data’.


The core group will be First Nations/Indigenous only membership, with non-Indigenous members invited to provide advice and support as required. It is also anticipated that the group will start small, representing just a couple of regions initially, and hopefully will build interest and momentum more globally moving forward.

For more information on how to get involved, please email Drew Keys: [email protected].

Authored by:

  • Jaki Adams-Barton, Director, Social Justice and Regional Engagement, Office of the CEO, The Fred Hollows Foundation
  • Jennifer Merryweather, Senior Policy Advisor, Social Justice and Regional Engagement Team, The Fred Hollows Foundation
  • Tennille Lamb, Senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Adviser, The Fred Hollows Foundation

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