Fred Hollows, an autobiography
With Peter Corris
John Kerr, 1991. 240 pp. $29.95
Reviewed by Stephen Robson
Fred Hollows has been showered with accolades such as Australian of the Year and Humanist of the Year. One is left with the impression, though, that for Hollows real change is far more important than recognition.
Hollows, best known for his recent medical work in Eritrea, has teamed up with novelist Peter Corris, creator of Sydney detective Cliff Hardy.
Hollows was brought up in New Zealand, where he graduated from the University of Otago. In the middle of the Cold War, Hollows joined the Communist Party. As he explains in the book, "If everyone's against them they must have some of the right idea."
Hollows decided to become an eye specialist. He went to London to further his training in ophthalmology.
In 1968 Frank Hardy published a book titled The Unlucky Australians on the strike of the Gurindjis at Wave Hill cattle station in the Northern Territory.
After attending a public meeting that Hardy spoke at in Sydney, Hollows went to see the life of the Gurindji first hand. What he saw was an eye surgeon's nightmare: trachoma.
Hollows explains, "It was a shock to me. I'd been working at the hospital and in my private practice and seeing a parade of eye disorders, but nothing like this. In my training and working in Wales, I thought I'd seen every sick eye condition there was to be seen, but I was wrong. It was like something out of the medical history books — eye diseases of a kind and degree that hadn't been seen in western society for generations! The neglect this implied, the suffering and wasted quality of human life were appalling."
To accomplish what Hollows and his colleagues did with trachoma is enough to fill a lifetime. But then Hollows has followed it up with his work in Eritrea.
Royalties from the sale of the book go the Austcare Eritrea blindness prevention program.