Fred, Gabi & family | The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ

Fred, Gabi & family

Fred and Gabi Hollows. Photo: David Hancock

Fred and Gabi Hollows. Photo: David Hancock

Fred met Gabi while she was training in orthoptics in the early 1970s. A few years later they were working together at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, where he was head of the ophthalmology department and she was the senior orthoptist.

Gabi O'Sullivan, Penny Luck, and Fred Hollows at Christmas Creek, WA. Photo: David BroadbentFred was putting together a team to go on the road for the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program and asked Gabi if she would join them. They spent three years traveling across the outback together, clocking up more than eighty thousand kilometres across rural and remote Australia. The team set up their tents in the red dirt and examined eyes in some of the countries most isolated communities.

“I remember the time when I recognised what a good woman Gabrielle O’Sullivan was,” said Fred. The team was in an Indigenous camp, it was hot, and they had already seen hundreds of people. Gabi had the difficult task of convincing people to take a vision test.

“Gabi was just as nice, just as friendly to the last person as she was to the first, and having done it hundreds of times that day. Gabi didn’t alter her tone of voice because somebody was an old Aboriginal man or woman, or whether they were the station owner or the station manager, they all got the same courteous treatment…That kind of innate goodness is rare.”

Fred was the proud father of Tanya, Ben, Cam, Emma, Anna-Louise, Ruth and Rosa.

Big ideas around the dinner table

“Fred and I first came to Nepal with the World Health Organisation in 1985 and that is when we first met the inspirational Dr Sanduk Ruit,” says Gabi. “I remember when Dr Ruit was training in Australia with Fred, he was living at our home in Randwick, Sydney. We would all sit around the dinner table, discuss our big ideas and imagine the possibilities.”

Dr Ruit is now the director of the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Nepal; a world-class hospital and research institute, and a partner of The Fred Hollows Foundation.

In 1992, a gathering of family and friends around that same dining room table was the beginning of The Foundation.

Fred’s many hobbies

Farnham House had a downstairs workshop where Fred enjoyed making things with word. He thought woodworking might be in his blood - his mother’s family had been in the timber business and were joiners, carpenters and cabinetmakers.

Fred also had an inherited a love of poetry, but it wasn’t until his father was 86 that they discovered their common interest.

“When I really want to get a high I read verse,” said Fred. “That’s not the sort of thing that, being in a family of four boys, you normally discuss.”

Fred also loved the adrenalin of mountain climbing, and until the early 1980s he went to New Zealand once a year to climb. He and Gabi also liked to go bushwalking with the children in the Snowy Mountains and he kept fit by running and cycling.

Fred loved the outdoors and loved the sound of the rain on the tin roof at Farnham House  - “the noise of rain on a tin roof when you’re in bed at night is one of the most soothing sounds the world has to offer.”

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What we can do

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