The values that drive vision: Remembering Fred Hollows on his 95th Birthday

Today, as we mark what would have been the 95th birthday of Fred Hollows, we reflect on the enduring legacy of a man whose values and beliefs continue to inspire the work we do today.

Fred was an internationally acclaimed eye surgeon and social justice activist who championed the right of all people to high-quality and affordable eye care. He restored sight to thousands of people around the world and trained countless eye doctors to do the same.

Behind these achievements and accolades are a set of core values that made Fred the man he was. Values of compassion, humanity, integrity and kindness that we embody in our work and that we see reflected in our supporters and partners who help make this work possible.

In honour of his birthday, here are just of a few of Fred’s values that we carry with us today.


“When I’ve seen an opportunity, I haven’t sat down and called a committee meeting… we’ve gone out and done it.”

Fred was the type of man that got things done. He always pushed for change and, because of that, put in motion a legacy to end avoidable blindness. This very pragmatic, practical approach can be seen in the way Fred created sustainable healthcare solutions.

In 1985, after visiting Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, Fred recognised the need for local factories to produce affordable intraocular lenses for use in cataract surgery. The factories he went on to establish in Nepal and Eritrea didn't just reduce the cost of cataract surgery but also supported communities to take charge of their healthcare needs. These factories have since produced millions of lenses and are an enduring reminder of Fred's impact.

Following in Fred’s footsteps, we strive for real change and practical action. Since 2002, when The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ started working with partners in the Pacific, we have helped support seven eye health facilities that deliver eye care and provide training for the local eye care workforce. Over one million eye consultations and over 88,000 surgeries have been performed, and we continue to work with local partners to strengthen public health systems and advocate for the importance of eye care in national health plans.


“Good eye service is the right of everybody, not just the wealthy who can afford it.”

Fred was passionate about the right to sight. He viewed eye care as a matter of social justice, a principle that drove his work with Australia's indigenous communities through to the work we do today across the Pacific. He wanted to make sure everyone, everywhere, has access to quality eye health care, which is why our focus is in the Pacific, which has some of the highest rates of avoidable blindness and vision impairment. We are working to help deliver eye care services, including in remote areas, and supporting the training of local doctors and nurse who will then go on to provide eye care to their communities.


“I’m an optimist, always, that the world can be a better place.”

Fred Hollows looked at the world with a hopeful lens. His optimism wasn't passive; it was a driving force that fuelled his work. He saw potential where others only saw despair, opportunity where there was need, and hope in every challenge. Carrying this optimism forward, we maintain the belief that a brighter future is within reach, and with every eye that we help treat, every doctor we support through training, every health system we help to strengthen, we see the world becoming a better place, just as Fred envisioned.


“Teach the teachers first, then the teachers can teach others.”

Education and learning are something that Fred held dear, understanding its ripple effect for lasting change. Even after his cancer diagnosis, Fred was dedicated to educating the next generation of eye doctors. With only a few months to live he discharged himself from hospital to travel to Vietnam to train over 300 Vietnamese eye specialists in modern surgery techniques.

To date, we have supported the training of 353 eye care graduates in the Pacific, helping to address the shortage of eye care workers in the region.

Evidence driven

“I’ve always been driven by a need to understand, and to try and recognise the implications of what I’m doing.”

Fred's approach was always rooted in a deep understanding of the facts. Evidence-driven, our work is based on rigorous research and data, ensuring that we're not only doing good work but that we're doing it effectively. This value guides our strategies and interventions, helping us to adapt and respond to the actual needs of communities. In this way, we ensure that our resources are used where they can have the greatest impact, just as Fred would have wanted.

As well as conducting research directly related to eye care, such as with last years Rapid Assessment of Blindness (RAAB7) survey in Vanuatu, we investigate contextual factors that impact how people access care, such as in the 2022 gender analysis of eye care services in Papua New Guinea. Run in partnership with CARE International, this research aimed to better understand why the prevalence of blindness is significantly higher in women than men and how we can reduce gender specific barriers.

Collective change

“Individuals can and must help. Look at the problem and do something, don’t just sit back.”

It might be hard to see how as one person you can make an impact - but there is a strength in community and collective change. Fred was able to achieve a lot by going out and doing something about the problems he could see, and we have been able to achieve even more by coming together to carry his work on. Every donation, every individual’s support, every person we partner with has a part to play as we work together to end avoidable blindness and vision impairment in the Pacific.

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