Lee speaks on Vision 2020 Australia's efforts in reducing blindness in the Indo-Pacific region, and calls on the Australian government to increase their funding commitments, including to the overall aid budget.
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales):
One in five of the world's poorest people are living with a disability. Surely that should mean that Australian aid has a particular responsibility to provide effective programs. Tackling blindness in the Indo-Pacific region has had a relatively successful track record. The challenge is to maintain and improve this record. Since 1999, blindness prevalence has actually significantly decreased in the Indo-Pacific region, with a 38.5 per cent reduction in the Pacific and a 43 per cent reduction in South-East Asia. These figures become even more significant when we understand that there has been a 23 per cent increase in the population across that region in the same period.
These results highlight the significance of Australian investment to coordinate global engagement in blindness prevention. I do congratulate Vision 2020 Australia Global Consortium for the work that they are doing in this area. Vision 2020 Australia members and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness are working hard to improve stakeholder collaboration in these countries, and working to adjust to the Turnbull cuts to overseas aid. They are working together to maintain momentum towards achieving the global targets, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.
Vision 2020 Australia is working in low-income countries to ensure people of disability contribute to and benefit from all development programs. One aspect of the work of Vision 2020 that is very inspiring is how they involve people with disabilities directly in the work and in addressing the programs that are being delivered. This approach is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty and disability.
The Greens do support Vision 2020 Australia in their call on the Australian government to continue its leadership role in disability inclusion, and, further, we support their call for an annual funding commitment of at least equal to the 2015-16 allocation of $12.9 million, and this should also be extended for the life of the Development for All strategy until 2020.
Vision 2020 also advocates for five per cent of the aid budget to be invested in mainstreaming disability inclusion across all aid investments. When you consider the figure that I commenced with, that one in five of the world's poorest people are living with a disability, clearly we should be supporting that call for the mainstreaming of disability inclusion across all aid investments.
Vision 2020 Australia has also estimated that $45.2 million over four years from 2015 to 2019 is required to maintain the momentum towards achieving the global action plan across 10 countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
This aim is under pressure because of the Australian government's cuts to its aid budget. Vision 2020 Australia had plans to manage, channel and maintain momentum in three countries. I again very much congratulate Vision 2020 on how they have responded to the cuts in working out how the aid dollar can be most effective-surely work that the government itself should undertake.
I will share how Vision 2020 is managing this. This is a quote from their publication called Towards 2020: a shared vision of working in partnership for eye health and vision care. They state:
All three countries-
and they are Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam-
have benefited from Australian investment in eye health, have a strong stakeholder base and potential for significant impact through collaborative actions, despite receiving reduced resources from the Australian Government.
So this is a real-life example of how Australian dollars are being stretched-and stretched in effective ways. But clearly it also highlights how money, particularly to non-government organisations, can go so far in really making a difference to people's lives in low-income countries.
The Greens also support Vision 2020 Australia's call for the government to allocate investments to support sector-wide eye health coordination and strategic health system strengthening initiatives in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. They are calling for an investment of $18.5 million over four years to achieve that. Again, these are programs that would go a long way to making a big difference to the lives of so many.