Australia is a developed and highly resourced country, with a sophisticated health care system that is accessible to all Australians. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, First Nations Peoples of Australia, making up only 3% of the Australian population, this access is not always equitable. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples continue to experience institutional racism, experience poorer health outcomes and are still dying up to 8 years younger than other Australians.
However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are resilient and through Community Controlled services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership, they are leading the way with countless success stories in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led health policy, service delivery and human rights sectors. This is most recently evidenced through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders moving rapidly to safeguard communities when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. These actions were decisive and designed with each local community in mind and avoided a potential catastrophe.
The Fred Hollows Foundation (The Foundation) aspires to be a true ally for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and works to uphold the legacy of Professor Fred Hollows. We unashamedly target our efforts in Australia to ensure public accountability of our commitment to achieving social justice and access to culturally safe eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. This work is done in conjunction with many long-term partnerships across the eye health and health sectors, with much collaboration and good will to ensure no one is needlessly blind or vision impaired.
Through this experience and The Foundation’s global leadership on gender equity and global eye care targets, we are also embarking on a journey of understanding equitable access to eye care services for other First Nations/Indigenous/Tribal Groups internationally. The Lancet-Lowitja Institute Global Collaboration Article Indigenous and tribal peoples’ health (data from 23 countries, 28 populations) further identifies evidence of poorer health and social outcomes for Indigenous peoples than for non-Indigenous populations. This research initiated The Foundation’s global Indigeneity interest, beyond our extensive experience in Australia, and our collaboration with The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). Discussions about how to further explore First Nations/Indigenous Peoples’ eye care across the Western Pacific and Latin America Regions has led us to form the First Nations Special Interest Group.
The IAPB First Nations Special Interest Group
The IAPB First Nations Special Interest Group was launched in Darwin on 22 July 2021, with participants from across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Latin America and Canada.
The First Nations Special Interest Group sets out to champion the eye health care needs of First Nations/Indigenous Peoples globally through establishing a First Nations network to enable world-wide connections, and sharing of knowledge, research and evidence on best practice. This is in line with the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the recent United Nations General Assembly formal adoption of 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.
The Group is not an IAPB Committee or a Working Group but it can link into IAPB working groups and Council. Additionally, with membership open to IAPB members and beyond, linkages can also extend to other global mechanisms, such as the World Health Organisation and other United Nations Bodies.
Look forward to sharing more with you about ‘why this group is needed’ and principles of engagement, and we welcome all interested parties to reach out and connect with us.