Gabi Hollows, Founding Director | The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ

Gabi Hollows, Founding Director

Gabi has been a driving force behind The Fred Hollows Foundation since she and Fred established it around their dinner table almost 20 years ago. She is the public face of The Foundation, a founding director, and patron of The Fred Hollows Foundation Miracle Club.

Gabi Hollows has been a driving force behind The Foundation since she helped set it up in 1992. Photo: Ian Waldie/CI StudioGabi was born in 1953 in Newcastle, New South Wales, and grew up on an orchard on the Central Coast of NSW.

“I was quite cross-eyed when I was about three years old. After visiting doctors and having an operation to correct my eyes I decided that I wanted to help people with eye problems.”

In her teens Gabi worked every Saturday morning as a receptionist for a local GP, and graduated as an orthoptist in 1972 (orthoptists specialise in disorders of eye movements and associated vision problems).

Working with Fred

She first met Fred Hollows during her training, and in 1976 joined the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program (NTEHP), initiated and led by Fred and sponsored by the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists and the Australian Government.

Over three years, Gabi and Fred visited over 465 remote Indigenous communities with a team of people, treating Indigenous Australians for trachoma and other painful eye conditions.

Gabi had previously known very little about Indigenous Australians and says that working on the program was a tremendous honour.

“I saw so much of Australia and have beautiful memories. I was very privileged to be initiated into Aboriginal culture the way I was. Those years changed my life and the way I see things.”

Becoming a family

Gabi and Fred were married in 1980 and had five children: Cam, Emma, Anna-Louise and twins Ruth and Rosa.

In 1992, four years after Fred became sick with cancer, Fred and Gabi realised he didn’t have long to live. They got together with friends and set up The Fred Hollows Foundation to continue his work.

Since Fred’s death on February 10, 1993, Gabi has continued to work tirelessly for The Foundation while caring for her large family. In 1996 Gabi married lawyer and family friend John Balazs, who has a daughter Kate, from a previous relationship.

Gabi has been recognised for her work through an Advance Australia Award for Community Service and a Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary International. She has also been named one of Australia’s 100 Living National Treasures. In 2003 she was awarded a Centenary Medal by the Australian Government. In 2012 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney in recognition of her tireless work in the field of blindness prevention.

What we can do

Help keep Fred’s dream alive.

4 out of 5 people who are blind in the developing world don't need to be. Routine treatment costing as little as $25 can restore sight and hope.