Today I’m not going to talk about our equipment. Today I’m going to talk about some of the patients that come to us for their eye tests.
Every Wednesday we see a couple of people from the Northern Immigration Detention Centre. This is a facility operated by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship to house people and process their applications concerning immigration detention. There are approximately 800 asylum seekers that are housed here and the nationalities that have come in for eye tests so far are Sri Lankan and Iranian.
These clients receive primary health services and we are one of the external providers who are contracted to help. They come on small excursions to one of our stores with Serco security staff and interpreters to receive our services. In 2011 there were 39 interpreters covering 11 language groups at the Darwin facilities and I assume this year that the figures are similar.
We test their eyes, check their eye health (particularly if they are diabetic) and provide them with glasses at no cost if they require them. I always feel refreshed knowing that I did what I could to help the detainees. The investment of our time in their lives will make a huge difference, if not now then definitely later. Providing glasses allows a person to continue with their hobbies e.g. reading and learning to speak, read and write English. We can also screen for eye disease and help to manage diabetes to help prevent potential blindness.
The detainees are always so polite, grateful and appreciative of what I do for them. I try to have a chat if I can and I am always smiling and I try to give them an encouraging nod to let them know that I am here to help. It can be hard for a person who comes from another country, to feel relaxed when they go into a ‘doctor’s office’, particularly when they are surrounded by foreign machines in a clinical environment. It can also be unnerving for those who have never had an eye test before, when I touch their eyelids or shine bright lights into their eyes. Furthermore it can be very daunting for someone to try and read the small letters on the chart when they cannot – worried by a sense of fail. A lot of the detainees suffer from chronic anxiety, stressed by what they have been through, what their family and friends have been through, and not knowing their fate.
I feel like I am able to establish a rapport with them as my own mother had come here fleeing her country in the early 1980s. As she has been able to stay, she has been granted a wonderful life in Darwin with a loving husband and family – their children successful in their own right. If it weren’t for services such as the NIDC, I wouldn’t be here.
It is rewarding for me in my career to be able to continue this important work, enrich the lives of the clients, and bring a smile to their faces and twinkle in their eyes…