The Indigenous and Remote Eye Health Service

Life changing and sight saving. Restoring vision to indigenous and remote Australians since 2010.

The Indigenous and Remote Eye Health Service (IRIS) provides essential eye surgery and delivers sight-saving patient outcomes by providing local on-the-ground services in Indigenous and remote communities across Australia.
IRIS began as a joint initiative of the Australian Government Department of Health and the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists. Today, IRIS is funded through a grant from the Australian Government and coordinated by Vanguard Health.

July 2023

Katherine District Hospital - Jawoyn, Dagoman and Wardaman Country, Northern Territory



Why do we need the IRIS Program?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are three times more likely to experience blindness or vision loss than non-Indigenous Australians, despite more than 90% of cases being preventable or treatable.

In rural and remote areas, a lack of equitable access to public cataract surgery has  resulted in waiting periods up to three times longer than in major cities, with Indigenous Australians also waiting more than 50% longer for sight-saving cataract surgery.

In rural and remote areas, a lack of equitable access to public cataract surgery has  resulted in waiting periods up to three times longer than in major cities, with Indigenous Australians also waiting more than 50% longer for sight-saving cataract surgery.

The Indigenous and Remote Eye Health Service (IRIS) delivers eye care and eye surgery directly to communities in remote and rural Australia to help address preventable vision loss caused by cataracts — providing local access to world-class eye health services for Australians and by Australians.

We work closely and collaborate with local hospital and health service as well as Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) within these communities to provide a seamless and culturally safe experience for patients.

IRIS ensures that patients get care and eye surgery closer to home, in their community or on country where possible, and in a timely way. This reduces the impact on the local community and greatly improves the overall patient experience while concurrently helping to address hospital waitlists for cataract surgery.

Thousands of Australia’s First Nations peoples have been assisted through the IRIS Program since it was launched in 2010.

IRIS is for Outcomes

The IRIS Program provides sight-saving cataract surgeries to Indigenous, remote, and rural Australians.

We don’t measure success by how many services we deliver or through how many sites we work.

Success is measured by the number of patients we can treat and ensure their vision is restored through surgical intervention. We also measure our success based on the number of post-operative smiles.

IRIS is for Flexibility

The team who coordinates the IRIS Program have a depth of experience in delivering health services in regional, rural, and remote Australia.

We focus on addressing local constraints for the delivery of eye health services and ensuring patient care is the core focus.

This enables funding to be applied flexibly to maximise patient outcomes and experiences.

IRIS is for Quality

All clinical experts engaged in the IRIS Program hail from across the country and are recognised in their fields as genuine experts and masters of their craft.

This ensures that patients in rural and remote locations will receive the same world-class level of care as patients in Australia’s metropolitan cities.

IRIS is for Communities

We aim to provide care as close to home as possible and directly in the communities where the patients live.

The team understands the challenges of leaving the community to receive care in an unfamiliar location and we aim to ensure that patients travel as little as possible in the delivery of IRIS.

This reduces the dislocation of communities and greatly improves patient and carer experiences.

Bringing specialist teams into these communities also provides a source of revenue for the local economy via the businesses we support during our stay.

Get involved with IRIS

Contact us
For Clinicians

If you are a clinician involved in the delivery of eye health in Australia and believe you could contribute to remote and rural communities through IRIS, we want to hear from you.

We welcome the opportunity to speak with clinicians to investigate the ways you can get involved with IRIS or other aspects of the clinical services delivered by Vanguard Health.

For Communities

If you believe your community has an existing eye health service deficit and would like to be considered by the IRIS Clinical Governance Committee for future schedules, we want to hear from you.

We are interested to hear from community leaders, community members, and clinicians working in remote and rural communities who believe that an IRIS visit would be beneficial to their community.

We will then investigate the need in your local area and assess it as part of the national planning process for future IRIS service locations.

For Corporate Partners

If you believe in the IRIS story and want to help rural and remote communities with improved access to eye health services, we want to hear from you.

We are always looking for Partners who:

  • believe in closing the gap through improved eye health access
  • want a clear outcome from their support
  • have an interest in rural and remote communities across Australia.

We believe in better health for remote communities and look forward to your support to extend our reach and delivery to more Australians.

Connect with IRIS

Our partners

The IRIS Program is a collaborative activity that relies on partnerships between Vanguard Health, our clinical teams, public and private hospitals, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, and state-based funding providers.
The Australian Government

The IRIS Program is delivered as a grant from the Australian Government, and we gratefully acknowledge their support for this critical health program in Indigenous, rural, and remote communities across Australia.

The Program is complementary to existing support services that aim to improve Indigenous eye health across Australia.

Vanguard is committed to engaging with Australian private specialists and health services to enable the efficient extension of their services to public patients Indigenous, rural and remote locations.

In partnership with clinicians and public health services, Vanguard Health has coordinated specialist health programs for both federal and state governments across Queensland, Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.

The Australian Society of Ophthalmologists

The Australian Society of Ophthalmologists was formed in 1984 to represent the medico-political interests of ophthalmologists across the country.

Today, the ASO has grown to become the peak medico-political body for ophthalmologists and their patients.

The ASO is committed to advocating for access to safe, affordable, and quality eye health services for all Australians.

When ophthalmologists and business associates join the ASO, they become part of a growing community of specialists united by a common goal to safeguard ophthalmology practise in Australia — the battles fought today, protect the future of tomorrow.

MDA National is a doctor-owned medical indemnity insurer that exists only to support and protect our Members and promote good medical practice.  MDA have partnered with the Vanguard Health IRIS program and provided sponsorship to support the program ongoing.

Content Warning

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website may contain images of deceased persons.

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