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Fred Hollows

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Subject: The Fred Hollows Foundation, Gabi Hollows, Sanduk Ruit, Peter Woolcott, List of University of New South Wales faculty
Collection: 1929 Births, 1993 Deaths, 20Th-Century Physicians, Australian Atheists, Australian Medical Doctors, Australian of the Year Award Winners, Australian Ophthalmologists, Australian Surgeons, Cancer Deaths in New South Wales, Companions of the Order of Australia, Deaths from Kidney Cancer, New Zealand Atheists, New Zealand Medical Doctors, New Zealand Ophthalmologists, New Zealand Surgeons, People Educated at Palmerston North Boys' High School, People from Dunedin, People from Sydney, Rotary Foundation Fellows, University of New South Wales Faculty, Victoria University of Wellington Alumni
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Fred Hollows

Fred Hollows
Fred Hollows
Fred Hollows
Born Frederick Cossom Hollows
(1929-04-09)9 April 1929
Dunedin, New Zealand
Died 10 February 1993(1993-02-10) (aged 63)
Randwick, NSW, Australia
Nationality New Zealander/Australian
Occupation Ophthalmologist
Spouse(s) Mary Skiller (m.1958–1975)
Gabi O'Sullivan (m.1980–1993)
Children 7

Frederick Cossom "Fred" Hollows, AC (9 April 1929 – 10 February 1993) was a New Zealand and Australian ophthalmologist who became known for his work in restoring eyesight for countless thousands of people in Australia and many other countries. It has been estimated that more than one million people in the world can see today because of initiatives instigated by Hollows, the most notable example being The Fred Hollows Foundation.


  • Early life 1
  • Medical career 2
    • Overseas work 2.1
    • Opinions regarding HIV/AIDS 2.2
  • Death 3
  • Recognition and awards 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Fred Hollows was one of the four children in his family, the others being Colin, John and Maurice. All were born in Dunedin, New Zealand, to Joseph and Clarice (Marshall) Hollows. The family lived in Dunedin for the first seven years of his life.[1] He had one year of informal primary schooling at North East Valley Primary School and began attending Palmerston North Boys' High School when he was 13. Hollows received his BA degree from Victoria University of Wellington. He briefly studied at a seminary, but decided against a life in the clergy. After observing the doctors at a mental hospital during some charity work, he instead enrolled at Otago Medical School. While living in Dunedin he was an active member of the New Zealand Alpine Club and made several first ascents of mountains in the Mount Aspiring/Tititea region of Central Otago.

Hollows was a member of the Communist Party of New Zealand during the 1950s and 1960s.[2]

Hollows was married twice: in 1958 to Mary Skiller, who died in 1975, and in 1980 to Gabi O'Sullivan.

Hollows was originally a New Zealand citizen. He declined the award of honorary Officer of the Order of Australia in 1985. He adopted Australian citizenship in 1989 and was named Australian of the Year in 1990.[3] He accepted the substantive award of Companion of the Order of Australia in 1991.

Medical career

In 1961, he went to Moorfields Eye Hospital in England to study ophthalmology. He then did post-graduate work in Wales before moving in 1965 to Australia, where he became associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. From 1965–1992 he chaired the ophthalmology division overseeing the teaching departments at the University of New South Wales, and the Prince of Wales and Prince Henry hospitals.

Early in the 1970s, Hollows worked with the Gurindji people at Wave Hill in the Northern Territory and then with the people around Bourke and other isolated New South Wales towns, stations and Aboriginal communities. He became especially concerned with the high number of Aborigines who had eye disorders, particularly trachoma. In July 1971, with Mum (Shirl) Smith and others, he set up the Aboriginal Medical Service in suburban Redfern in Sydney, and subsequently assisted in the establishment of medical services for Aboriginal People throughout Australia.[4]

He was responsible for organising the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists to establish the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program (the "Trachoma Program") 1976–1978, with funding by the Federal Government.[5] Hollows himself spent three years visiting Aboriginal communities to provide eye care and carry out a survey of eye defects. More than 460 Aboriginal communities were visited, and 62,000 Aboriginal People were examined, leading to 27,000 being treated for trachoma and 1,000 operations being carried out.[6]

Overseas work

His visits to intraocular lens laboratories in Eritrea and Nepal to manufacture and provide lenses at cost, which was about A$10 (approximately US$9) each. Both laboratories started production after his death, in 1993.[9]

The Fred Hollows Foundation was launched as an Australian charitable foundation in Sydney on 3 September 1992 to continue the work of Fred Hollows in providing eye care for the underprivileged and poor, and to improve the health of indigenous Australians.[10] The Foundation has also registered as a charity organisation in the United Kingdom where Fred did much of his training, and in his country of birth, New Zealand.

Opinions regarding HIV/AIDS

In 1992, Hollows spoke at the Alice Springs National Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Conference, and argued that some areas of the AIDS campaign were being inadequately dealt with at the time. According to The Australian's Martin Thomas, Hollows stated that some homosexuals were "recklessly spreading the virus"; therefore, the safe sex campaign was an inadequate way of dealing with the issue. To contain the disease, Hollows argued that promiscuity needed to be addressed. Hollows observed the spread of AIDS in contemporary African communities and he was concerned that AIDS would spread as vehemently through Aboriginal communities.[11][12]


Hollows died in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in 1993 at the age of 63. The cause of his death was metastatic renal cancer primarily affecting his lungs and brain. He had been diagnosed with the disease six years earlier, in 1987. Upon his death the Chief Minister of the ACT, Rosemary Follett, described Hollows to her parliamentary colleagues as "an egalitarian and a self-named anarcho-syndicalist who wanted to see an end to the economic disparity which exists between the First and Third Worlds and who believed in no power higher than the best expressions of the human spirit found in personal and social relationships."[13]

Hollows was given a state funeral service at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, though he was an atheist,[14] and, in accordance with his wishes, was interred in Bourke, where he had worked in the early 1970s.[15] He was survived by his wife Gabi Hollows (an Australian Living Treasure), and children Tanya, Ben, Cam, Emma, Anna-Louise, Ruth and Rosa.

Recognition and awards

  • 1981: Advance Australia Award for Aboriginal eye care.
  • 1985: was a consultant to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
  • 1985: offered appointment as an honorary Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia but he refused to accept the award because he was appalled at what he regarded as blatant lack of interest by the government in eye care for Aboriginal people. However, he went on to become an Australian citizen on 26 April 1989.
  • 1990: received Human Rights Medal
  • 1990: named Australian of the Year
  • 1990: received a second Advance Australia Award, for Medicine and Overseas Aid
  • 1991: named Humanist of the Year[16]
  • 1991: named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International
  • 1991: received Honorary Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Science, University of New South Wales
  • 1991: appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)
  • 1991: awarded Honorary Doctorate of Science, Macquarie University
  • 1991: named the first honorary citizen of Eritrea
  • 1992: received Honorary Doctorate, Queensland University of Technology
  • 1993: received Albert Schweitzer Award of Distinction, Chapman University, USA
  • 1993: received Rotary International's highest honour, the Rotary Award for World Understanding.
  • 1993: received the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists Medal for his years of distinguished meritorious and selfless service – presented to him the night before he died.
  • 1993: posthumously named a Melvin Jones Fellow of Lions Clubs International.
  • 1993: Fred Hollows Reserve in Hollow's hometown of Randwick, NSW Australia established to preserve a natural rainforest gully and save it from future development.
  • 2004: entered into the 'Hall of Fame' at the inaugural NSW Aboriginal Health Awards, in recognition of his "outstanding contribution and achievement to Indigenous health in Australia".
  • 2005: an operating theatre was named after him at Canberra Eye Hospital, ACT, Australia.
  • 2005: named one of "New Zealand's Top 100 History Makers" by Prime Television New Zealand.
  • 2006: named one of the "100 most influential Australians" by The Bulletin magazine.[17]
  • 2010: featured on $1 Coin from the Royal Australian Mint as part of the Inspirational Australians Series.[18][19]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Editorial: Fred Hollows – GreenLeft online. 17 February 1993]
  3. ^
  4. ^ Mum Shirl, Mum Shirl: an autobiography, Mammoth Australia, 1992, pp 107 ISBN 1-86330-144-5
  5. ^ Powerhouse Museum, National Trachoma and Eye Health Program 1976 – improving eye health in remote communities, Accessed 14 August 2008
  6. ^ Hugh R Taylor, Trachoma in Australia, Medical Journal of Australia 2001; 175: 371–372, Accessed 13 August 2008
  7. ^ Ruit S, Brian G, Hollows F., On the practicalities of eye camp cataract extraction and intraocular lens implantation in Nepal, Ophthalmic Surgery. 1990 Dec;21(12):862-5. PubMed Accessed 13 August 2008
  8. ^ Fred Hollows and Garry Brain, Eye surgery in Eritrea, British Journal of Ophthalmology 1991 January; 75(1): 64. Accessed 13 August 2008
  9. ^
  10. ^ Fred Hollows Foundation, Our Network Fred Hollows Foundation International Website. Accessed 13 August 2008
  11. ^ The Hissink File – August 2006
  12. ^ AIDS – Have we got it Right? – ADF
  13. ^ Rosemary Follett, ACT Parliamentary Hansard 16 February 1993
  14. ^
  15. ^ Fred in Bourke – The Fred Hollows Foundation International
  16. ^ Humanist Society of Victoria Australian Humanists of the Year Accessed 13 August 2008
  17. ^ The 100 most influential Australians – The Bulletin and The Sydney Morning Herald. 27 June 2006
  18. ^ Fred Hollows Featured on Australian $1 Coin – Coin Update News. 19 July 2010
  19. ^ Fred Hollows coin released, Australian Geographic, 8 July 2010

External links

  • Fred Hollows – Information Sheet – The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ
  • Recognition and Awards – The Fred Hollows Foundation
  • Green Left Weekly obituary
  • Racism no way fact sheet
  • Watch clips from the documentary 'For All the World to See', about Hollows on australianscreen
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