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Optometrists are easily found in metropolitan areas; however, Australia still remains severely underserviced in its remote regions. Locum optometrists and regional eye health workers all help to provide essential eye care services for Aboriginal communities through the provision of a culturally appropriate and practical service model used in remote locations.
Brien Holden Vision Institute commenced contracting locum optometrists through the Aboriginal vision program in 1999, in order to help service areas of New South Wales (NSW). In the Northern Territory (NT), the locum program started in 2006, targeting one area and later increasing service locations after positive response. The contracts are often short-term placements established within Aboriginal Medical Services and remote community health centres. Permanent eye care services by resident optometrists are only available in the major centres, with very remote communities relying on a fly-in-fly-out model for visiting eye care practitioners.
Feedback from optometrists who participate in the locum program indicate a number of key motivations for their involvement in remote work. A leading reason was the desire to use their professional skills in areas that are disadvantaged or lack the level of access to eye health services available in the cities. Many of these optometrists have experience in or exposure to public health optometry, either within Australia or overseas.
Source: Brien Holden Vision Institute