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College celebrates milestone anniversary


Photo taken in 1961 of students undertaking the new four-year BAppSc optometry course, many of whom pursued stellar professional and academic careers. (L-R front) Tony Adams, Ross Both, unknown, Stan Elwood, Donald Mitchell. (Second row) Lex Grocott, Miriam Strelinger, Anne Russell (nee Turnbull), unknown, Kerry, Gavin Bridgman. (Third row) Frank Denahy, Ian Bailey, Brien Holden, Ross Harris, Rod Watkins, Geoff Hardy-Smith (dec), Peter Skeates. (Rear) Alan Johnston, Brian Brown, Graham Hill, Peter Dwyer, Leon Garner, Bob Loutit, Frank Keogh, Brian Carney and Mr Hamer.   Photo: ACO

By Helen Carter


The Australian College of Optometry (ACO) is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with a range of events and activities including a memory wall.

The diamond jubilee will highlight 75 years of preserving sight and preventing blindness achieved throughout decades of teaching optometry students, providing eye-care services to the public and continuing professional education to members, and undertaking research.

The ACO started in 1940 as an educational institution to provide a four-year university course in optometry, taught partly at the University of Melbourne. It commenced operations with four students—John Nathan, Tony Douglas, Vans Ovenden and Doug Allen—and one staff member, the secretary to council, William Gray.

Today it has more than 850 members, and about 150 staff including sessional and casual employees and 86 optometrists who deliver annually more than 75,000 eye-care services to disadvantaged Victorians.

Optometrists are invited to contribute to the memory wall by providing photos, recollections, anecdotes and stories about their association with the college and the Victorian Eyecare Service (VES), which is also celebrating its 30th anniversary.

The wall will comprise a physical display at the college and a website page.

The ACO hopes to gather perspectives from staff, students, stakeholders and members to be used in a film, newsletters, its annual report, website and other promotional material.

CEO Maureen O’Keefe said the organisation had evolved over the years.

‘It is still heavily involved in the education of optometrists through the provision of clinical teaching to optometry students from across Australia and New Zealand, an expansive continuing professional development program including Australia’s first online Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics, and an annual national conference.

‘The ACO now has two other important areas of activity: clinical service delivery and research into vision and eye health,’ she said.

‘The ACO delivers the Victorian Health and Human Services Department funded Victorian Eyecare Service, a public health eye-care program which provides subsidised primary eye care and spectacles to people experiencing significant disadvantage.’

A network of optometrists in country Victoria delivers the rural service, which is in addition to services provided by six metropolitan Melbourne ACO clinics and an extensive outreach service.

‘We provide more than 75,000 services to patients with health care or pension cards in low socio-economic areas, including people who are homeless, live in supported residential services, high-rise housing, people who are disabled, frail and elderly, Indigenous communities, refugees and some unfunded services to children attending disadvantaged schools,’ Ms O’Keefe said.

The ACO also delivers services in partnership with major public hospitals, including the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, provides low vision optometry services for Vision Australia and operates a mobile eye-care service for the Royal Flying Doctor Service Victoria.

It has affiliations with the University of Melbourne and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. A division of the college, the National Vision Research Institute, conducts research.

Festivities will include an afternoon tea and tour for ACO dignitaries and alumni, the annual general meetings of the ACO and the NVRI on 20 May at 7 pm, the annual national conference and an anniversary open day, both in October.

Email anecdotes or photos for the memory wall to The ACO anniversary webpage features a timeline and updates of anniversary events and activities.


Optometrists from the University of Melbourne graduating classes of 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966 attended a 50-year reunion.

2 comments for “College celebrates milestone anniversary”

  1. Gravatar of David BridgmanDavid Bridgman
    Posted Monday, June 8, 2015 at 12:20:53 PM

    Great photo of the students in 1961. FYI my father Gavin Bridgman died in 2009, and Lex Grocott in 2012. I have a Melbourne Age newspaper article from this era, about the School of Optometry. Do youi need a copy of it?

  2. Gravatar of Geoff ElwoodGeoff Elwood
    Posted Saturday, July 22, 2017 at 10:56:21 AM

    Replying to David Bridgman...
    Hi David, thanks for passing your comment in 2015 about your father Gavin. My father Stan Elwood passed away last week and I am putting together the Eulogy. If you still have the article from the Melbourne Age I would love to be able to reference it!
    Many thanks

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