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Macular Disease Foundation Research Grants, Admiralty House


I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Cammeraygal People of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.

It’s World Sight Day, and here we are overlooking Sydney Harbour taking in one of the truly great sights around the world. We are indeed fortunate — those of us who can see.

But there are people here today, along with their families and carers, who are living with macular disease and cannot appreciate the view in the same way we can.

And you wonderful people from the Macular Disease Foundation make it your business to continue the search for a cure and to give hope to those who are affected.

Welcome to Admiralty House — one and all. Linda and I are delighted to have you here.

I will be honoured to present the foundation’s Research Grants Award to three worthy recipients in the coming minutes.

One of the best parts of my role as Governor-General is that I get to meet ordinary Australians who do extraordinary things. And, in most instances, these people don’t want the accolades or recognition for their achievements.

If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve heard honours and awards recipients at investiture ceremonies say to me: ‘This is embarrassing. I’m just doing what I’m doing. I don’t know what all the fuss is about’, I would be a wealthy person, in dollar terms at least.

They simply want to be left alone to focus on the task at hand and to make a contribution. It’s a very Australian thing to do.

It might be something like helping a neighbour or a friend or a member of their local community in a time of crisis. It might be checking in on someone who has dropped out of a regular social gathering to make sure that they are okay. Or, as is the case today, it is putting your heart, energy and skill into funding research into macular degeneration.

We know that there are currently no cures for macular diseases, but that there are several interventions that can reduce risk and delay progression.

There are now highly effective treatments for the most devastating forms of macular diseases, however treatment must be provided early to maintain the best possible sight.

As you know, the World Health Organization has today released its ‘World report on vision’. The report highlights the fact that at least 2.2 billion people around the world have a vision impairment or blindness and, of these, one billion have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or that is yet to be addressed.

Here, in Australia, 1 in 7 people over the age of 50 (about 1.3 million people) show some evidence of age-related macular degeneration. But, unlike in other parts of the world, we have an excellent integrated health care model, high levels of awareness, and access to treatments to reduce the impact and incidence of blindness. We also have some of the leading research minds working towards better outcomes for patients, either through medical or social research.

Today, we celebrate three leading researchers and the work of the Macular Disease Foundation Australia in funding new and innovative research, and in supporting the macular disease community as a whole.

Thank you all for what you do.