“Get your eyes checked,” Indigenous music hall of fame singer pleads for action 6 July 2021 Indigenous music hall of fame singer and Gamilaroi man, Roger Knox has been surrounded by diabetes his entire life. His grandmother and mother died from diabetes, his two siblings have been diagnosed with the chronic condition and two cousins have lost eyesight and had a leg amputated. That’s why he’s got behind a Diabetes Australia and Carbal Medical Services partnership in Toowoomba and Warwick, promoting the KeepSight program, a national eye screening program for people with diabetes. The partnership with Carbal Medical Services – an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisation aims to reduce the high rates of diabetes-related blindness in First Nations people on the Darling Downs, by encouraging people to better understand the risks associated with diabetes and eye health and get in the habit of having their eyes checked regularly. Roger wants First Nations people to stay on top of their diabetes and get their eyes checked. “We’ve seen our cousin lose his sight. We couldn’t believe it. A happy, fit young fella. We grew up together. He spent time in hospital, and he came out and couldn’t see,” he said. “Jacko, another cousin lost his leg because of diabetes. He has been doing things for a long time; being independent, being strong. He had been working hard and didn’t stop to think hey, what’s the matter, as he started to get sick.” Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working age Australians but only about half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with diabetes are having their eyes checked within recommended timeframes. “It’s good to come to a place like Carbal where they look after you. They are on top of your illness. They are the best thing that could happen to us. And I believe it’s the only way we can look after our health down the track, because if we don’t, if we ignore it, if we go back to the old system, the old ways, we are going to lose a lot of our people. We’ve already lost so many in our community to diabetes.” Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said the organisation was pleased to be working with Carbal to deliver diabetes eye health messages to First Nations people in the region. “Everyone with diabetes is at risk of eye damage but most loss can be prevented with early detection and early treatment,” Professor Johnson said. Mr Knox is concerned his family history could mean a diagnosis for him isn’t far away. “Getting diabetes is one of my dreads. I’m trying to look after myself. I always test my blood levels and drink lots of water,” he said. “When Carbal moved here, they came in a caravan. I’ve been coming to visit them ever since. And when I travel, I always visit other aboriginal medical centres. He is encouraging others on the Darling Downs not to delay getting an eye check. “We must remember to stay on top of our diabetes and to get our eyes checked because we’ve seen our cousin go blind from diabetes and we don’t want to see that in our people. Just be on top of it and go and get your eyes checked.” People can join up to receive KeepSight reminders when they are at the clinic, or online at www.keepsight.org.au or by going to an optometrist and having a diabetes eye check and asking their eye care provider to register them. Already more than 170,000 Australians with diabetes have registered for reminders.