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Vision Excellence Awards: Jennifer Gersbeck

Entering the world of eye health in 2004 with Vision 2020 Australia, Jennifer transformed a small, largely program-orientated organisation, into a globally-recognised example of leadership, collaboration and influence that epitomises the essence of Vision 2020, a legacy she continues today with The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Under Jennifer’s leadership as CEO, Vision 2020 Australia grew in influence to become the respected national peak body for eye health and vision care it remains today. Growing a membership of diverse organisations from service providers, consumer bodies, professional associations, educational institutions, academia and international development, Jennifer’s influence in eye health across Australia and the Asia Pacific region has been wide ranging.

Jennifer’s leadership over 12 years as CEO of Vision 2020 Australia was monumental. Some of the key highlights included the longstanding health promotion program of the Vision Initiative across communities in Victoria, the over $68 million in overseas aid to the Asia-Pacific under the Avoidable Blindness Initiative, establishment of the Parliamentary Friends Group for Eye Health and Vision Care to raise awareness of eye health among Australian Parliamentarians, delivering Australia’s first National Eye Health Survey, the inclusion of people with low vision in the National Disability Insurance Scheme and contributing to halving the rate of blindness and vision impairment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians between 2008 and 2016,

Joining The Fred Hollows Foundation in 2016, Jennifer brought her skills of partnership and diplomacy to bear in seeing Vision 2020 live on and evolve. Jennifer was a key force in moving the World Report on Vision from an idea into reality and driving forward to achieve the new World Health Assembly resolution on “integrated people-centred Eye Care’ in 2020. Jennifer has been a fierce advocate for gender equity across The Foundation and the IAPB co-Charing the Gender Equity Work Group. And with her awarding of a scholarship with a prestigious Harvard University leadership program in 2019, Jennifer continues her passion for eye health and the spirit of Vision 2020 in making innovative partnerships for eye health financing the theme for her dissertation.

Prof Hugh Taylor, former co-chair of Vision 2020 Australia who appointed Jennifer in 2004 with the late Prof Brien Holden, makes the case for Jennifer’s nomination for this award:

“Jennifer is an amazing woman and she has done an outstanding job. She joined a fledging Vision 2020 Australia and with her leadership and persistence it has become a highly successful body for advocacy and brought its members together in very effective ways. Vision 2020 Australia has had a huge impact on eye health in Australia, both for mainstream and for Indigenous Australians, but it has also had a broad impact in many overseas countries as well. Much of this is due to Jennifer’s passion and commitment. Since leaving Vision 2020 Australia, Jennifer has shown the same drive and commitment at Fred Hollows and she has provided leadership within IAPB and the Vision 2020 partnership.”