April 17th – 25th 2010
Fred Hollows (1929-1993) was a passionate ophthalmologist who became known for his work helping restore the eyesight of countless thousands of people in developing countries and his passionate plight to improve indigenous health here in Australia.’
Today, headed by his wife Gabi, the Fred Hollows Foundation continues to work in remote areas of Africa, Asia, Papua New Guinea, NSW and Northern Territory.
In April 2010 I was fortunate to be part of a fund raising effort for the Fred Hollows Foundation. Linked to this, I was fortunate to be able to go on a trip to the Northern Territory to witness their team at work with the Jawoyn Community in the region near Katherine.
There were 14 in our group with guides, Steve and Saun from World Expeditions.
We visited aboriginal art sites in the Arnhamland escarpment. We listened to Dreamtime stories and learned about songlines, bush tucker and ancestral spirits.
We tried spear throwing, fire starting and pandanus weaving.
We visited the Manyallaluk School and watched Shelley Morris give a wonderful music lesson. We swam in the river with a group of bright, funny indigenous kids. We camped at a special Spirit Dreaming place (Malkgulumbu) at Beswick Falls with a group of traditional owners and their families. We spoke to the clinic sister at the Sunrise Clinic in the Beswick community.
We witnessed some of the terrific contribution the ‘Fred Hollows Mob’ is making in these areas: not only in eye health, but also in areas of nutrition, literacy, education, aural health, women’s health and workforce culture.
I think they are particularly successful because they listen and try to ‘walk both ways’ – black and white. What impressed me was the way the local people respected and trusted the ‘Fred Hollows mob’.
I came away from this experience with a stronger appreciation of the beliefs and culture of the indigenous people. I was delighted by the curiosity, humour and sense of wonder in the young kids. I was drawn into the stories. I was inspired by the talented teachers in the Manyallaluk School and the exceptional musical talent of musician Shellie Morris- www.shelliemorris.com
I know there are many layers of problems associated with Indigenous Communities in Australia. Many of these stem from misunderstandings, mistrust, unemployment, displacement, alcohol and clash of beliefs.
There are always many sides to any story.
I look at the rocky cliffs of the escarpment and see jagged rocks and an inhospitable barrier. Many indigenous people can look at the same cliffs and see colourful spirits that spark wonderful stories and deep memories of ancestors and family.
I look at a scrubby, forbidding bush hiding dangerous spiders and snakes. Indigenous people can see a garden of useful plants, trees, animals and bush tucker.
This is their home, their country, their dreaming and their country is alive with things that we, ‘white fellas’, have no idea of.
They read the land like we might read a story. They sense subtleties. They feel a very strong connection to the land.
They walk bare footed.
They call us white fellas, tenderfeet, and for good reason.
Maybe we can hope for better solutions if we work together with respect and trust. From what I saw, the ‘Fred Hollows Mob’ in the NT is quietly doing that through their support of the Sunrise Clinic in the Beswick Community. Here they help to provide a wide range of health care. As well they teach healthy cooking and provide a safe haven for women and children at the Women’s Centre.
The Fred Hollows Foundation is also a supporter of the Indigenous Literacy Project: www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au
In conjunction with Fund raising, the Fred Hollows Foundation will organise individual and tailored trips to showcase their work in areas around the world and in Australia. Programs are available for Corporate Partnerships, Corporate Fundraising, Community Fundraising and Private Donations.
You can find more information at www.hollows.org.au