Eye on the prize - celebrating the work of a champion for Indigenous eyes

One of the most esteemed ophthalmologists in Australia, Melbourne Laureate Professor Hugh Taylor AC, has devoted most of his professional life to improving eye health outcomes in Indigenous communities. Professor Taylor is about to announce his retirement at the launch of a new book about his life’s work.

Professor Marcia Langton AO (wearing a black leather jacket), Professor Hugh Taylor AC (wearing glasses, a suit and a red bowtie), and Aunty Pat Anderson AO (wearing a white shirt with decorative dark-blue scarf) at the launch of Professor Taylor's new book. The picture is taken in a conference facility room, with a relatively neutral background. There is a poster beside Aunty Pat Anderson which reads 'Minum Barreng: The Story of the Indigenous Eye Health Unit', which features artwork of an Indigenous child's face.

(L-R) Professor Marcia Langton AO, Professor Hugh Taylor AC and Aunty Pat Anderson AO pictured at the launch of 'Minum Barreng: The Story of the Indigenous Eye Health Unit'.

Professor Taylor founded the Indigenous Eye Health Unit (IEHU) at the University of Melbourne in 2008. Since then, he has continued to raise awareness, reform systems and increase advocacy for Indigenous eye health. In particular, Professor Taylor is passionate about the treatment of Trachoma, an avoidable eye disease that causes blindness and has affected people in outback communities.

Professor Taylor has helped generations of Indigenous people with eye problems and inspired many young health workers and eye specialists to pursue a career treating eye disease. Professor’s Taylor’s work, alongside community leaders, has made a significant difference to the lives of thousands of Indigenous people in remote parts of Australia. One of Professor Taylor’s legacies is the ‘Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision’, which was released for the first time in 2012.

The annual report reviews the policies and work underway to improve the quality and sustainability of eye care services for Indigenous Australians, and measures the progress against the goals which are outlined in the Roadmap.

Despite being close to retirement, Professor Taylor remains as passionate as ever about improving the eye health of Indigenous Australians. ‘My mission has been to eliminate Trachoma which is far too common in Indigenous communities,” Professor Taylor said.

“I also want to close the gap for vision and achieve equity in eye health outcomes for Aboriginal Australians. The IEHU is focussed on ending avoidable blindness in Aboriginal communities and to put Aboriginal eye health in Aboriginal hands.  I have been fortunate to meet and work with communities and their leaders, and helped to facilitate programs to be sustainable and led from within..

“My work has not ended and there is still much to do, but I am confident a new generation of professionals and community leaders will continue this valuable work.

“My commitment has always been to provide opportunities for Indigenous people to manage their own healthcare and to support the academic and personal growth for a new generation of clinicians.”

Professor Hugh Taylor using a magnifying device to inspect the eye of a patient. The inspection is happening outdoors, with dry grass and some vehicles and barrels in the background. The photo is taken on a film camera, featuring a young Professor Taylor. A man stands next to the patient, placing his hand on the back of her head and supporting her during the inspection.

Professor Taylor has helped generations of Indigenous people with eye problems and inspired many young health workers and eye specialists to pursue a career treating eye disease.

Professor Taylor has had a long and distinguished clinical and research career and made many contributions to the field of preventive and public health ophthalmology. He has worked tirelessly on blindness prevention strategies in both developed and developing countries, and has served on many advisory committees and boards for that purpose.

Professor Taylor has been a Board Member and President of the International Council of Ophthalmology, Board Member and Chairperson of Vision 2020 Australia, and a member of the Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis.

He has consulted for the World Health Organisation for over 30 years and in 2001 was made a Companion of the Order of Australia “for his contributions to the prevention of river blindness, through research and education related to the prevention of eye disease and to eye health in indigenous communities.”

Professor Jane Gunn, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences said Professor Taylor’s work on the ‘Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision’ was an innovative project that had improved clinical care for Indigenous patients.

“Professor Taylor has served the University of Melbourne and the community with great distinction and his work and legacy will continue for years to come. He embodies the meaning and focus of a true leader,” Professor Gunn said.

The Indigenous Eye Health Unit released a book about Professor Hugh Taylor’s and the IEHU’s work and experiences over the last 15 years – “Minum Barreng: The story of the Indigenous Eye Health Unit”.

In his spare time, Professor Taylor is a passionate member of the Melbourne FC support and likes to listen to Wagner.