EST 1984

Darryl Flegg Optometrist

PH: 4862 2027


When I received my optometry degree I didn't appreciate how the profession was one through which an enormous difference can be made to prevent blindness to disadvantaged populations. Most of the blindness and impaired vision in the world is simply due to the need of an eye examination and a pair of spectacles. Sight can make the difference between a life of poverty and a life of opportunity.


Optometric service programs are also provided in many NSW country areas. These clinics are government funded and conducted in Aboriginal Medical Services or in community buildings. In 2016-17 Darryl provided locum services to Cobar, Wellington, Coonabarabran, Baradine, Brewarrina, Walgett and Collarenebri. Some of these involved spectacular light plane flights from Bankstown airport with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

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Barunga is situated 80 km east of Katherine along the Central Arnhem Highway, with Beswick (Wugularr) a further 30km east on the Waterhouse River. Barunga has a population and around 300 and Beswick has around 500 people. The renowned Barunga Festival is held on the long weekend in June each year and is a celebration of culture, music, traditional arts and sport. Both communities have a health clinic, a school and a store. And both have lots of bats as in the photos.

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Ngukurr is an aboriginal community 3.5 hours by road east of Katherine on the Roper River. It was originally the Roper River Mission, with ruins of the old Roper Bar police station still visible today. The community was moved to its present site in 1940 due to flooding problems. Population is around 1000 with a school, a health clinic, an Anglican church, a store and a police station.

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This trip was based in Nhulunbuy on the Gove peninsula. For many years Gove has been the site of a bauxite mine and aluminia refinery with large deep water harbour infrastructure for export. In 2014 Rio Tinto shut down the refinery and is now just exporting the raw material. Resultant has been an enormous loss of employment, with subsequent population exodus. The peninsula has spectacular beaches and water views and is renowned for its fishing and other water activities.

The area is home to the Yolngu people. Most clinics were conducted in the Miwatj Health Centre in Nhulunbuy, with other clinics held spent in the community of Gunyangara (Ski Beach) about 10 km away. The website contains a lot of interesting history of the area and the development of healthcare resources for indigenous communities.

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Alcoota (Engawala), Bonya and Atitjere (Harts Range) are communities in Central Australia that I have previously been to and particularly enjoyed, so I was pleased when the opportunity arose to travel there again.

To travel by road to Alcoota from Alice Springs involves driving north 70 km along the Stuart Highway, then east along the Plenty Highway for 90 km, and then continuing for 28 km north east on unsealed road to the community. The community has a school, general store and a health centre and services a population of 150–200, with the area being renowned for the archaeological fossil beds of vertebrate animals. Atitjere is around 50km further along unsealed roads and has the stunning backdrop of the Macdonnell Ranges. The population is around 250, but swells for the annual Harts Range Bush Sports Weekend in August and includes picnic races that have been held since 1947 - Bonya is a much smaller Arrente community, 160km further east along unsealed roads.

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Nikki’s Place Agape Home is in Chang Mai Thailand where around 100 children unloved by their families, society and their culture are given a home and the love that they deserve. The home was established in 1996 resultant to the spread of HIV/AIDS, when the lives of many children were impacted with the loss of parents, children being in at risk situations and with no other options for their care. Most of the children are HIV positive or at risk of, and Agape changes their lives.

See more at:

I accepted an invitation to visit Agape and it was suggested that eye testing all the children would be in order. So some portable gear was packed and accompanied by my son Alexander we flew to Bangkok and then on to Chang Mai. It was quite a treat for the children to have their eyes examined. New spectacles were prescribed as required and these were sent over with the next visitor from the Southern Highlands.

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Another orphanage was also visited, this one with less resources and based in temporary accommodation as the images show.

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Whilst in my years away from private practice, I developed a passion for indigenous eyecare, travelling many times to the Northern Territory to provide clinical services to remote aboriginal communities for ICEE – the International Centre for Eyecare and Education. I continue to do clinic trips three or four times a year, and appreciate the understanding of my patients and the interest that they show in these trips. As many people enjoy hearing of these trips and the stories that I return with, here is an insight into my latest trip.

Elcho Island is approximately 550km northeast of Darwin. It is bounded on the western side by the Arafura Sea and is a short distance away from the mainland. Galiwin'ku, is the main community on the island and is the second largest Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory with approximately 2000 people. There are numerous other settlements on the island including Gawa, with a large number of tribal groups and up to 22 different dialects being used in the communities. Elcho Island also serves as a base for the delivery of services to outstations on neighbouring islands and back on the mainland such as Matamata and Maparru.

This trip involved providing first time eyecare services to the outlying communities of what is called Marthakal Homelands. And I got to fly to work most days.

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Following the tsunami of 2004 eyecare aid programs were undertaken by ICEE to replace lost visual aids, deliver eyecare services and to train local people in the delivery of these services. I was fortunate enough to be part of the first team in the program just weeks after the tsunami and then led a subsequent team. The teams travelled to the politically disadvantaged east coast holding clinics in Batticaloa, Trincomallee, Akkaraipattu, Kalumnai and the LTTE region. The people were particularly appreciative of the services that were brought and commonly gratitude was expressed with big smiles and sometimes kisses of our hands and feet.

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This trip was a clinic run from Alice Springs out to the remote communities 350-450km north west including Yuendumu and Nyrrippi. Yuendumu is one of the larger inland communities of Walpiri people and has a school, three stores, a lovely health centre and an aboriginal arts centre. Nyrrippi is much smaller, around 200 people, about 150km west and was established in the 1970’s. It has a school, accommodation, a council building and a small health centre and a great AFL team.

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