Optician Paul Clarke surprised to receive Australia Day award


Paul Clarke has received an Australia Day award for his charitable medical work in India. Picture: Andrew Ritchie        www.communitypix.com.au d464636
Paul Clarke has received an Australia Day award for his charitable medical work in India. Picture: Andrew Ritchie        www.communitypix.com.au d464636

MT Lawley resident Paul Clarke says his inclusion in last week’s Australia Day honours came as a surprise.

Mr Clarke is being honoured for service to international humanitarian health programs and to the optical profession.

He started charitable medical work in India more than 20 years ago.

“In the beginning, back in 1996, I was approached by a West Australian who had an orphanage and a medical service in India and they needed specs to hand out,” he said.

“There was a small office near the orphanage where lay health workers would give out medication and equipment in remote rural India.”

Mr Clarke realised handing out second-hand spectacles wasn’t the best way to tackle demand, so asked members of the Opticians Association if they could make new pairs.

“This guy asked me to come with them and that’s how it started,” he said. “We made it a project of the Association; we take doctors, dentists, allied health workers and optometrists.”

Equal Health has taken 1046 medical workers to India and East Timor since 1997 and next Friday, volunteers will depart for the 21st Equal Health mission.

“Receiving the honour is humbling; it certainly wasn’t expected, but it is nice,” Mr Clarke said.

Mr Clarke was Inaugural chairman and co-founder of Equal Health from 1999 to 2007, which also operated in South Africa for a time.

He has been the proprietor of Vision West since 1991, was the president of the Stirling Business Association from 2006 to 2007, and president of the International Opticians Association from 2010 to 2012.

He founded the Spectacle Aid to India Programme through the Australasian Dispensing Opticians Association in 1996, served as the inaugural president of the Australasian Dispensing Opticians Association from 1994 to 1996 and was president of the WA Optical Dispensers Association from 1992 to 1993.

Mr Clarke was previously honoured with a Certificate of Recognition from Prime Minister John Howard in 1999 and a Centenary Medal in 2002.