It is with great sadness that we announce the loss of a dear friend and colleague, Prof Brian Layland OAM, who passed away peacefully on Saturday morning, 22 October.
Many will remember him as the man, larger than life, who in 1999 approached the AH&MRC along with the late Professor Brien Holden. It would be the beginning of a partnership that has continued to this day, where Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services guide how services are delivered to Aboriginal communities focusing on cultural safety and equity.
Brian conducted his first optometry visit to Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service in December 1999, hitching a lift with the RFDS flight. His determination saw the growth of services being delivered to more than 120 sites, all of them being arranged through ACCHS and the AH&MRC community partnerships.
His major accomplishments include a significant role in the acceptance of optometric services into Medicare and Veterans Affairs; the establishment and development of Vision Care NSW, the Optometric Vision Research Foundation, the Aboriginal Health College NSW and other organisations dedicated to eye care research, education, and service delivery; and the thousands of satisfied patients he has seen in 50 years of practice.
Tributes to Brian
Today we share a deep sadness for the loss of a legendary leader and friend in Aboriginal eye health and in the words of people who knew him, Brian was ‘a wonderful man – greatly respected’ who is likened to ‘a pioneer of rural NSW who walked and worked with ACCHOs and was prepared to seek solutions’. He was seen as a ‘hero for our communities’ and will be remembered as ‘a true champion – RIP big fellow’.
Robert Skeen, CEO of AH&MRC – Prof Layland’s support was integral to establishing the Aboriginal Health College (now known as AHMRC Training) at Little Bay, and our auditorium is named after him. “I would like to thank Professor Layland for everything he has contributed to over the years for Aboriginal health and AH&MRC. His dedication and vision paved the way for Aboriginal health, and his efforts are greatly appreciated”.
Pauline Wicks, Aboriginal Eye Health Coordinator, Wellington Aboriginal Medical Service, Wellington NSW – “Not only Wellington has gained from the eye care knowledge I have learnt from Brian, and ICEE, but my region has. I visit schools across the area and am able to find kids with vision problems that we wouldn’t have otherwise. Now, these kids can do better at school – that is pretty amazing. The outreach clinics I do have been very good for the area, people are now phoning me asking when I am coming again. That would never have happened without Brian or his support all the way. I just love him to death. His sense of humour is incredible… everyone here loves him.”
Over more than two decades, Brian was a well-known and highly respected figure in the Aboriginal health sector. His steadfast commitment led to the Aboriginal Eye Health Programs in NSW and in the NT. Brian Layland cared about people and touched the lives of many. If you are feeling distressed, we encourage you to reach out to those close to you.
We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to Jeanette and family during this time of mourning.
Principal Advisor – Australia Program BHF
Board Director, BHVI