Rachel Siewert is an accomplished Australian. She is currently a Senator for the Australian Greens Party having been elected in 2004 and is the Chair of the Senate Community Affairs References Committee.
What you may not know about Senator Siewert is that she is an eye health advocate, having struggled herself with vision problems as a young child.
Rachel was having difficulty learning at school when a school vision testing program identified potential issues. This triggered her parents to arrange an eye examination where she was diagnosed with myopia (short-sightedness) in one eye, hyperopia (long-sightedness) in the other and a stigmatism in both.
After getting glasses following a visit to the optometrist, she almost immediately shot to the top of the class.
Difficulty with vision is not uncommon at school, in fact, one in five children have an undiagnosed eye disease and according to Optometry Australia’s 2020 Vision Index, 35 per cent of children taken to the optometrist required prescription glasses.
We sat down with Rachel to hear all about her childhood experiences with vision problems and how she’s maintaining good vision for life.
Q1. What was the moment you realised you were having difficulty with your vision?
I didn’t realise I had an issue with my vision until it was identified through a screening program at school. I had never known anything different, so had no idea anything was wrong!
Q2. What happened after you saw an optometrist and were prescribed glasses?
It was unbelievable. It was like somebody had pulled a screen away from my eyes. It made me realise that I had a problem and all of a sudden I could see things clearly. It made such a difference to my learning and I immediately started doing better in school.
Q3. How do you stay on top of your eye health currently?
In my mid-40s I had laser surgery which means that now I don’t have to wear glasses all the time. This is particularly good for me when it comes to exercise and playing sport. I still have to wear glasses for reading and I visit the optometrist regularly and change my glasses as recommended.
Rachel’s story is a reminder that eye health issues or vision problems aren’t always easy to identify in children. Early diagnosis and treatment will allow children to see clearly and thrive in the classroom, which is why it’s important children have a full eye examination with an optometrist before starting school, and return every two to three years as they progress through primary and secondary school.
Parents can find their nearest optometrist by using our Find an Optometrist search tool.