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Māori and Pasifika Eye Health

RANZCO is committed to working towards eliminating eye health inequalities across Australia and New Zealand.

In July 2021, the RANZCO Board endorsed the Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi) principles following earlier endorsement by the New Zealand Branch.

  • Tino rangatiratanga: The guarantee of tino rangatiratanga, which provides for Māori self-determination and mana motuhake in the design, delivery and monitoring of health and disability services.
  • Equity: The principle of equity, which requires the Crown to commit to achieving equitable health outcomes for Māori.
  • Active protection: The principle of active protection, which requires the Crown to act, to the fullest extent practicable, to achieve equitable health outcomes for Māori. This includes ensuring that it, its agents and its Treaty partner are well informed on the extent and nature of both Māori health outcomes and efforts to achieve Māori health equity.
  • Options: The principle of options which requires the Crown to provide for and properly resource kaupapa Māori health and disability services. Furthermore, the Crown is obliged to ensure that all health and disability services are provided in a culturally appropriate way that recognises and supports the expression of hauora Māori models of care.
  • Partnership: The principle of partnership which requires the Crown and Māori to work in partnership in the governance, design, delivery and monitoring of health and disability services. Māori must be co-designers, with the Crown, of the primary health system for Māori.

This is yet another step forward in our efforts to improve equity of access for Māori populations and we will continue this process through further consultation with Māori.

The RANZCO Māori and Pasifika Eye Health Committee is progressing work towards the RANZCO Māori Action Plan. Underpinning this work are three guiding principles:

  1. Genuine partnership with Māori
  2. Cultural competence
  3. Improving Māori representation within the ophthalmology workforce

Dr William Cunningham, former Chair (2018-2021) of the RANZCO Māori and Pasifika Eye Health Committee talks more about this work in the following video:

Transcript here.

Please contact us at for more information or to get involved.

In New Zealand there are disparities in eye health outcomes between Māori and Pasifika peoples and other ethnic groups in terms of uncorrected refractive error, cataract and other lens disorders, diabetic retinopathy and keratoconus. The underlying causes are likely to be due to higher rates of genetic and environmental risk factors alongside a lower rate of access to health services.

Māori are significantly less likely to wear corrective lenses than non-Māori (38.7% compared with 51.9% after adjusting for age) If they do wear corrective lenses, Māori are significantly more likely than non-Māori to find it difficult to see newspaper print well enough to read it and to find it difficult to see someone’s face clearly across a room (3.9% compared to 2.8% after adjusting for age).

Cataracts and other lens disorders are 1.5-2 times as prevalent in Māori compared to non-Māori up to the age of 84.

Māori and Pasifika people are overrepresented in populations with diabetic eye disease. There is also some evidence that Māori access the diabetic retinal screening service at a lower rate than other ethnic groups.

Māori and Pasifika people appear to have a higher than average prevalence of keratoconus.

RANZCO works to address eye health inequalities through training an ophthalmology workforce that is culturally competent and provides health services that are culturally safe for both patients and doctors. This includes working to increase the numbers of Māori and Pasifika ophthalmologists.

The RANZCO Strategic Plan 2017-20 commits to developing a plan to deal with Indigenous/Māori/Pacific Islander eye health and access issues and to increase the diversity (including Indigenous/Māori/Pacific Islander) of ophthalmologists in Australia and New Zealand. As part of achieving this, we have established a Māori and Pasifika Health Committee, with a goal of developing a strategy and action plan to improve Māori and Pasifika eye health outcomes.

In addition, RANZCO has launched up to four scholarships of AUD$2000 annually for medical students or junior doctors of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Māori or Pacific Island descent who wish to pursue a career in ophthalmology.

RANZCO has also established a Service to Australian Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander, New Zealand Māori and Pacific Islander Peoples Award. This award is given in recognition of outstanding service to the College, ophthalmology or community in areas of indigenous eye care, in either Australia or New Zealand or in recognition of mentoring indigenous doctors or medical students.

Finally, to encourage more Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Māori or Pacific Island doctors into a career in ophthalmology, RANZCO has adopted a centralised recruitment process that will automatically allocate an interview to qualified applicants who identify as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Māori or Pacific Islander.

Last updated: July 21, 2021

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RANZCO acknowledges our First Australians, the Traditional Custodians of the land
on which we live and work, and pays respect to Elders past, present and emerging.
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