Optician Paul Clarke surprised to receive Australia Day award

Optician Paul Clarke.
Optician Paul Clarke.

MOUNT LAWLEY resident Paul Clarke says his inclusion in today’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 over 20 years ago.

“In the beginning back in 1996 I was approached by a Western Australian who had an orphanage and a medical service in India and they needed specs to hand out. There was a small office near the orphanage where lay health workers would give out medication and equipment, in remote rural India,” he told Guardian Express.

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

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

Equal Health has taken 1046 medical workers to India and East Timor since 1997, and next Friday will see volunteers 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 Chair and Co-Founder, Equal Health, 1999-2007, 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 2006-2007, 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, 1994-1996 and president of the WA Optical Dispensers Association, 1992-1993.

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