Eye health for Indigenous Australians
National Strategic Action Plan
Chronic eye conditions
About eye health
In Australia, over 13 million people have one or more chronic (long-term) eye conditions, according to self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017–18 National Health Survey. Common eye conditions that cause vision loss include cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina from diabetes).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities:
- suffer vision impairment and blindness at 3 times the rate of other Australians
- have high rates of trachoma (an eye infection) in some areas.
Some eye conditions are caused by genes or ageing. But you can reduce your risk of many eye conditions by caring for your eyes and leading a healthy lifestyle.
It’s also important to get regular eye tests. Around 90% of all blindness and vision impairment in Australia is preventable or treatable if detected early.
Most Australians (90%) say that sight is their most valued sense, so we need to make sure everyone has access to the eye care they need.
What we’re doing about eye health
We work on policy and programs to improve eye health services and prevent and treat eye conditions, including the:
We endorsed the United Nations' General Assembly Resolution Vision for Everyone – Accelerating Action to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in 2021.
We support the World Health Organization’s (WHO) call to eradicate avoidable blindness. Australia has worked closely with the WHO on the development of global targets (PDF, 124 KB) for effective coverage of refractive errors and effective coverage of cataract surgery to be achieved by 2030.
We fund the Australian Eye and Ear Health Survey, which is currently underway. The University of Sydney’s Westmead Institute for Medical Research will conduct eye and ear examinations across metropolitan, regional and remote Australia during 2022–23. This is a follow-up to the 2016 survey.
We also fund research into eye health and eye conditions. This includes funding through the National Health and Medical Research Council.
The research helps us to focus our policy and programs on specific needs such as:
- improving eye health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- managing trachoma in Australia
- providing eye health services through the Rural Health Outreach Fund
- helping people with diabetes to manage their vision and prevent diabetic retinopathy through the National Diabetes Services Scheme's KeepSight program.
We fund the following programs about eye and vision health.
Trachoma still occurs in some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We work with the affected states and territories to identify, treat and prevent this condition. We also report to the World Health Organization’s program to eradicate trachoma across the world.
Rural Health Outreach Fund
The Rural Health Outreach Fund (RHOF) supports outreach initiatives that improve access to medical specialists, general practitioners (GPs) and allied and other health providers in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia.