The statistics don’t make comfortable reading. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are three times more likely than non-Indigenous people to be blind or have low vision.
They also wait much longer for cataract surgery, up to 63% longer. But now a planned initiative aims to reverse that trend and to help people experiencing vision loss or blindness access the support they need.
Commitment to improving eye care
‘Strong Eyes, Strong Communities’ is a five-year plan laid out by Vision 2020 Australia, the peak body for the vision sector. Its aim is to improve eye health and vision care to Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – those most susceptible.
It’s a commitment to implement 24 recommendations to change lives for the better. Under the plan, the government, service providers and community bodies want to see $85.5 million invested to prevent avoidable blindness. Money will go towards new regional health coordinators, improved case management and outreach service. It’s hoped a new eye health centre will also be established in the north-west of Western Australia.
It will, hopefully, make a big impact on the community who live alongside people like David Moses Martin.
David is blind and is one of our clients based in South Hedland. Now 61, he led a troubled early life.
I’ve been shot at, someone tried to run me over in a car and I’ve mixed with bad company, but that was in my younger years. I am a different person now.David Moses Martin
“I mixed with the wrong people, I was an angry young lad and I drank and smoked a lot, it all contributed to my health and led to my blindness.”
“Alcohol is well-known for causing cataracts and bad eyesight. My brother liked his alcohol, he drank too much, developed cataracts and had bad eyesight. He fell and hurt his head and died,” explains David.
David lives with his wife Margaret. He uses a cane but knows South Headland as well as any other local. He says some people don’t even realise he’s blind because he’s so confident.
“It’s having a good memory I suppose. For many years, when my eyesight was fading, I was employed by the refuse service, collecting rubbish, I learnt to navigate my way around.”
Support from VisAbility
David is currently supported by our therapist Marichu Mills. Marichu, an occupational therapist based in the Pilbara, has also been delivering assistive technology training, so David can make better use of his mobile phone, laptop and tablet and stay better connected.
I’m in the middle of refurbishing my house, so I need to organise and ring up tradies. It’s amazing to discover how the latest in technology can help me. I can easily find contacts on my mobile phone and convert electronic text to spoken words.David Moses Martin
David is a busy man and enjoys spending time with his grandchildren. He undertakes various roles as a pastor at his local church and goes to the gym four times a week.
He married late in life at the age of 50, and leads a happy life with his wife Margaret, but it wasn’t always that way.
David’s problems with his eyesight started when he was eight-years-old and got into a brawl with some other lads at school.
“I remember the incident as it changed my life. They were throwing ash at me, but picked up rocks as well and ended up in both eyes.”
As a result of that incident, the retina to both his left and right eye started to detach. His vision became blurred.
Then when he was seventeen, he started drinking heavily. His frequent drinking combined with boxing, a sport he took up as a teenager, only made his eyesight worse.
“I was able to work as a refuse collector, but my eyesight was deteriorating rapidly. When I was thirty-five I had major laser surgery to improve my vision. Unfortunately it wasn’t successful and I ended up being blind.”
Indigenous health and well-being
Many of David’s friends in the Pilbara have eyesight problems. Alcohol is a well-known factor causing cataracts and deterioration. He welcomes the new ‘Strong Eyes, Strong Communities’ plan which will focus on better eye health.
I stopped drinking and smoking 27 years ago. My community like alcohol, and their eyesight has really deteriorated. The problem is that they’re reluctant to seek help. This plan might change that – and be good not just for them but the next generation.David Moses Martin
We have a team of experienced therapists serving clients based in remote locations across WA, including the Pilbara. If you need therapy assistance or guidance with assistive technology then we can help, so contact us today.