The School of Optometry & Vision Science has been offering free optometric services to disadvantaged and Indigenous children at Stewart House, in Dee Why, for over five decades. Stewart House is a not for profit, charity organisation established in 1931 with support from the Department of Education and Health to provide respite care for public school children.
Since its establishment, the centre has hosted over 150,000 children from NSW and ACT who require a break from their regular circumstances. During their 12-day stay, the children engage in educational programmes that aim to foster their self-esteem and promote a healthier lifestyle. The children receive health services from various healthcare professionals, such as audiologists, dentists, and optometrists.
The collaboration between Stewart House and UNSW School of Optometry & Vision Science originated in late 1972, when the NSW government initiated a project to provide vision screenings and free glasses for children in need at Stewart House. Since the mid-1970s, the project has become an integral part of the curriculum for optometry students, who are required to participate in eyecare services at Stewart House as part of their training. The program has received positive feedback from optometry students, who report that it enhances their clinical skills in paediatric optometry. See testimonials below:
“Stewart House is one of the best placements in the final year of the optometry course because the place provides lots of exposure of paediatric practice to students and allows us to learn how to interact with children.”
“Stewart House gave me the opportunity to work with kids and provide assistance to those who need it most.”
Free glasses for the children have been generously donated by private Optometry practices across Sydney. They are presently kindly sponsored by Teachers Health.
The optometric facilities at Stewart House have been recently upgraded with four new examination chairs and stand units, two retinal imaging cameras, slit lamp and an auto lensometer and autorefractors.
Nikki Delaveris, a Lecturer at UNSW School of Optometry & Vision Science has been the primary supervisor at Stewart House for many years. She and the students provide clinical services one day per week during the university trimester and thereafter Nikki provides services two days per week to cover any other gaps in services. Nikki has indicated that "over the course of the 12 years that I have been servicing Stewart House, I find it very rewarding to know that I have assisted thousands of children in need of optometric care, as well as supporting their education and everyday life.”
Professor Lisa Keay, Head of School, UNSW School of Optometry & Vision Science stated that “the School has been a proud supporter of Stewart House for over five decades. We are incredibly fortunate to have Nikki leading this program on our behalf, with her paediatric optometry knowledge and experience. As noted in the testimonials, this placement is one of the highlights of the year for our final year students and provides valuable training in an important area of practice.”
The collaboration with Stewart House has resulted in three scholarly publications from UNSW School of Optometry & Vision Science.
If you would like more information about the Stewart House, please visit here
1. Amigo G, McCarthy A, Pye D. Visual characteristic of an underprivileged group of Australian children. The Aust J Optum. 1976; 59 (6): 188-97
2. Vaegan, Pye D. Independence of Convergence and Divergence: Norms, Age Trends, and Potentiation in Mechanized Prism Vergence Tests. Optometry and Vision Science 56 (3) : p143-152 , March 1979.
3. Fu A, Watt K, Junghans B, Delaveris A, Stapleton F. Prevalence of myopia among disadvantaged Australian schoolchildren: A 5-year cross-sectional study. PLoS One.2020 Aug 27;15(8)