The first Aboriginal optometrist in the state - and only the second in the country - has graduated from UNSW with a first class pass.

Jenna Owen, who grew up in Albert (population 11), about 15 kilometres west of Dubbo, is now back in rural NSW to help tackle the shortage of optometrists in country areas.

Currently in private practice in Port Macquarie, she hopes to volunteer in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, where trachoma, a preventable cause of infectious blindness, still exists.

"Working as an optometrist in rural and regional Australia provides more challenges and opportunities compared to urban centres," she says. "There's a broader range of clinical issues to manage."

"It's important for Indigenous people to have the opportunity to consult health professionals who have an understanding of their values and culture," she says.

The 22-year-old is the second graduate of UNSW's Shalom Gamarada Scholarship program. The program, administered by UNSW's Shalom College, Nura Gili and the Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit, provides board and lodging expenses for 24 Indigenous students to study medicine, optometry and medical science. The program has been supported by Investec Bank for five years.

The program's first graduate, Dr Beth Kervin, is now working at Liverpool Hospital.

Media contact: Bob Beale, Faculty of Science, UNSW, 0411 705 435.