Thousands of people at risk of developing eye diseases are expected to attend the Centre for Eye Health every year at the Kensington campus of the University of New South Wales.

The centre, a joint initiative between UNSW and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, was opened officially on Wednesday 4 November by the Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir.

It aims to reduce preventable blindness and vision impairment by early detection of eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Guide Dogs plans to spend $40 million over 10 years to provide a comprehensive range of world-class eye imaging and vision diagnosis services at no charge to anyone referred by a general practitioner, ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Most irreversible vision loss due to eye disease can be managed and treated if detected early, says centre director Professor Michael Kalloniatis. Half of all vision impairment is correctable and one quarter is preventable if diagnosed and managed early.

"For the first time in Australia, the best diagnostic equipment will be readily available under one roof and at no cost to anyone at risk of developing eye disease," says Professor Kalloniatis.

"Waiting lists are up to two years at many public hospitals, so people will now be able to access vision assessments much sooner. As well, they won't have to visit different centres for different tests - we have everything that's needed here."

Among the $2.5 million worth of equipment is Australia's first Optomap wide-field fundus photographic instrument, which quickly and painlessly takes multi-dimensional images of the back of the eye and optic nerve - without the need for eye-drops or invasive procedures.

The centre will also serve as a teaching facility for UNSW's School of Optometry and Vision Science and help support a wide range of vision research and education at the university.

The services provided by CFEH are free of charge to residents of NSW and the ACT and their referring practitioner. All individuals seen at CFEH must be referred by their health-care practitioner, such as an optometrist, ophthalmologist or GP, using the Centre's referral system.

The CFEH telephone number is: 1300 421 960

Full details are available at the centre's website.

Media contacts: Guide Dogs NSW/ACT - Siobhan McMahon | 0407 944 297 | UNSW - Bob Beale | 0411 705 435 |