COTTESLOE eye surgeon and Australia Day honours recipient Ross Littlewood (63) has seen how his optical surgery improves lives in third-world East Timor each year.
“When grandmothers there go blind, mum can’t work or the granddaughter can’t go to school because they have to look after her,” Dr Littlewood said.
“There was a grandmother going blind who went to the creek to drown herself, but she had the surgery for cataracts.
“And on our next visit we saw her taking the granddaughter to school, doing the shopping, and the whole family had changed.
“It was wonderful.”
Dr Littlewood, whose clinic is in Midland, was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia for his leadership of the East Timor Eye Program that conducted volunteer cataract surgery on about 60 East Timorese during week-long visits to the country north of Darwin between 2006 and 2012.
He has been teaching Timorese doctors the skills for the operations during annual visits in the last four years.
The work started after Darwin doctors called on their Australian colleagues to donate their time and equipment to the new country, after its health infrastructure was destroyed when occupying Indonesia pulled out, before the new nation gained its independence in 2002.
“None of the work I’ve done would have been possible if I’d not been part of the team, and each time we have a different group of volunteers from one visit to the next,” Dr Littlewood said.