A study of the eye health across 30 Aboriginal communities, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found an improvement in vision loss and blindness as compared to 30 years earlier. The most common Indigenous vision loss causes were unoperated cataracts, diabetes, uncorrected refractive errors or trachoma.

Although the situation has improved, there are still many Indigenous Australians who are going blind due to these preventable causes. Professor Hugh Taylor said the Indigenous continues to trail behind from the rest of the country in the prevention and treatment of eye diseases.

Vision loss in indigenous adults is predominantly from preventable or treatable causes, said Prof Taylor who is the chair of Indigenous eye health at University of Melbourne. He added, Adequate provision of accessible eye care services is required to redress the inequality and close the gap for vision loss in Australia.

Among 3,000 Indigenous people who participated in the study, 9.4 per cent of adults had low vision and among them, 1.9 per cent was blind. These results were a major improvement from the 1980 study which found 8.2 per cent of Indigenous people aged 40 were blind.

As compared to mainstream Australian adults, vision loss remains much more frequent in Indigenous adults. Overall, the study showed, an indigenous adult was six times more likely than a non-Indigenous to be blind and three times more likely to have low vision.

Prof Taylor informed, Cataract-related blindness in adult Indigenous Australians is about 12 times higher than in the mainstream. He added that diabetes-associated blindness is over 14 times higher and blindness from uncorrected refractive error is over 5 times higher. Each of these causes of vision loss is preventable, says Prof Taylor.

The positive aspect of this study is seen in the eye health of Indigenous children, with 1.5 per cent experienced vision loss and only 0.2 per cent were blind. The study showed that an Indigenous child was five times less likely to have low vision than a non-Indigenous child, and nearly half as likely to be blind.

The relative infrequency of myopia, or short sightedness accounted for the good vision of Indigenous children.