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Trachoma casts indigenous shadow
Ophthalmologist Angus Turner, Aboriginal Health Worker Jenny Garlett, former Governor of WA MIchael Jeffrey and patient Cynthia Barnes. Picture: Lee Griffith/The West Australian

Australia is the only developed country in the world where the infectious eye disease trachoma still ruins people's lives by robbing them of their eyesight.

Former governor-general and WA governor Michael Jeffery last night launched a project in WA to combat trachoma, which affects 6 per cent of indigenous children.

The Avoidable Blindness project, which is being driven by the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, aims to prevent trachoma and other conditions that cause blindness in Africa, Pakistan, Pacific countries and Australia.

Maj-Gen. Jeffery, who is chairman of the trust in Australia, said that its goal in Australia was to eliminate trachoma in indigenous communities.

Trachoma is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis, which can be easily spread on an infected person's hands or clothing, or carried by flies that have come into contact with discharge from an infected person's eyes or nose.

The project will help provide health education around hygiene and clean faces to stop the transmission of the infection.

Diabetic retinopathy, where complications from diabetes damage the retina leading to blindness, is an increasing problem in Australia because of the rise in diabetes.

Indigenous Australians, particularly those in remote areas, are three times more likely to have type 2 diabetes than other Australians.