College History

college-crest"On 23 March 1938, 20 ophthalmologists from various states gathered in Sydney to form the Ophthalmological Society of Australia of the British Medical Association, with Sir James Barrett as its first President." 

Prior to this, the Intercolonial (later Australasian) Medical Congresses had provided the only vehicle for Australian ophthalmologists to meet and exchange professional ideas. Dissatisfaction with this arrangement led to the successful move to create a truly national organisation to represent the profession.


The new Ophthalmological Society of Australia focused on its role as a learned body dedicated to the advancement of the science of ophthalmology. In April 1939, it held its first annual national scientific meeting in Melbourne. This meeting was followed later in 1939 by the publication of Volume 1 of Transactions of the Ophthalmological Society of Australia, the precursor to the College's current scientific journal.

In the post war years there was growing dissatisfaction about the standard of ophthalmological training in Australia. Qualifications were fragmented and there was no national agreement about the basic determination of competence to practice ophthalmology. Many felt that the setting of national standards and training was a matter for organised ophthalmology, and that this should be carried out by a college rather than a society. In 1968, these views carried the day, and led to the formation of the Australian College of Ophthalmologists in May 1969.


The new College absorbed the members, assets, policies and procedures of the Society. In addition, the new Articles of Association provided for the College to supervise the training of aspiring ophthalmologists and conduct examinations to test and recognise their competence.

The new arrangements were a considerable success, recognised by the grant of the Royal prefix in 1977.


RACO Building Commonwealth Street


Current building - Chalmers Street


Close links had always existed between Australian and New Zealand ophthalmologists. Reflecting this, there were moves in 1939 to include New Zealand ophthalmologists in the Australian Society. The British Medical Association rules precluded this, however, and the Ophthalmological Society of New Zealand was formed as a separate body.

Despite this setback, the relationship continued between Australian and New Zealand ophthalmologists, culminating in 1997 with the joint decision to form a New Zealand Branch of the College. The final change occurred in November 2000, with the change of name to The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists.

RANZCO also has a museum website and an Archives and Museum Committee, chaired by Dr David Kaufman. Enquiries regarding the Committee should be directed to ranzco@ranzco.edu


Councillors at RACO Commonwealth Street