Earlier this year, Specsavers Wanneroo Retail Partner Kim Turner and Specsavers Townsville Willows Dispenser and Co-owner Anthony Paxton embarked on an outreach trip to Bourke, NSW to see how their stores’ charity efforts were helping to end avoidable blindness in indigenous communities.

Through the Specsavers Community Program, Specsavers stores across Australia and New Zealand such as Wanneroo and Townsville Willows donate a portion of every glasses sale to hundreds of local charities and to Specsavers’ national charity of choice, The Fred Hollows Foundation. The Foundation is focused on improving eye health in Australia, the Pacific and in 25 countries around the world.

From 21 to 25 August 2017, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Foundation, Kim and Anthony travelled to the heart of regional NSW as part of a ‘See Australia’ trip, which provided a unique opportunity to see their store’s support of the Foundation in action through the Outback Eye Service (OES). OES is an outreach program established by the work of Fred Hollows in the 1970s. The OES’ public ophthalmology service is a critical resource that provides eye health services to people living in regional NSW – mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

During the trip, Kim and Anthony met patients treated by the OES and observed the team as they carried out eye examinations, cataract surgery and educated residents about the importance of eye health, hygiene and sun protection.

Anthony Paxton (left)

Reflecting on the outreach trip, Kim said, “Visiting Bourke and witnessing firsthand the life-changing work of the OES medical team was a humbling experience. Whilst I was there I met a patient whose eyesight was rapidly deteriorating and thought he was going blind. However, after a consultation with the OES, the patient underwent cataract surgery and regained his vision. Watching the reaction of the patient after the operation was an incredible moment and demonstrates how valuable the OES is to Australians living in remote areas.”

Anthony added, “Without the generosity of our customers, the incredible work that The Fred Hollows Foundation supports through the OES would not be possible. I am very proud that the funds Specsavers Townsville Willows raises are helping to treat avoidable blindness and ensuring that indigenous communities have a clearer, brighter future.”

Gabi Hollows, Founding Director of The Fred Hollows Foundation, said, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are three times more likely to be blind than non-indigenous Australians, and furthermore, a third of indigenous adults have never had an eye exam, which means that serious eye conditions often go undiagnosed.

“Thanks to Specsavers, The Fred Hollows Foundation is able to support eye health programs in Australia and work together to ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people exercise their right to good health.”

Bourke held a special place in Fred Hollows’ heart and was where he chose to be buried in 1993. In addition to seeing the work of the OES at Bourke Hospital, Kim and Anthony visited Fred’s grave and participated in a range of cultural and outdoor activities, including visiting the Mulgowan (Yappa) Aboriginal Art Site walking track, watching the sunset from Mount Oxley, and being entertained by the Bourke River Boys, a local dance group.

For each pair of glasses purchased at Specsavers stores across Australia and New Zealand, customers are given a token that represents a donation to either The Fred Hollows Foundation or a charity chosen by each locally-owned store. This commitment to improving eye health in regional areas has led to the Specsavers Community Program raising more than $2 million for The Fred Hollows Foundation in Australia and New Zealand to date.