Fred Hollows was an ophthalmologist who is known for his work in restoring eyesight to countless people, in Australia and abroad. He was born in New Zealand in 1929 and studied ophthalmology in England before moving to Australia in 1965. He became an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of New South Wales.
In the 1970s, Fred Hollows worked in Northern Territory and isolated towns and Aboriginal communities, including in Bourke. He noticed the high number of Aboriginal people with eye disorders and assisted in the establishment of medical services for Aboriginal People throughout Australia.
Fred Hollows first visited Bourke in 1971 and fell in love with the town and its people. His eye team held the first clinic at the showgrounds under a marquee. They later relocated to the Bourke District Hospital and provided services to various remote communities, including Cobar, Walgett, and Wilcannia, and these screening and surgical services are continuing today.
In Bourke, Professor Fred Hollows was known by pretty much everyone in the district and was simply known as Fred. When Fred passed away in 1993, he was laid to rest in Bourke, in the outback that he loved so much, under a coolabah tree.
The original gravestone has been replaced with a large granite sculpture, commissioned by the Hollows family. It is to symbolise his love of nature, the outdoors and climbing. The family invite any visitors to touch the sculpture, climb on it, or sit on it and contemplate life.
The grave is surrounded by boulders in the shape of an eye, and a sandstone memorial sits near it, carved by local Aboriginal artists, international sculptors, and Bourke residents. The plaque at the foot of the memorial states:
The key he used to undo locks was vision for the poor
To get there:
If coming into Bourke from the south along Kidman Way, the Bourke Historical Cemetery is before entering the town. A brown sign for Fred Hollows is at the first entrance to the cemetery.
If coming into Bourke from the south along Mitchell Hwy, entering town continue straight ahead for about 1.3km, and turn left into Mitchell Hwy. Follow for 1km, and turn left into the Bourke Historical Cemetery with the brown sign for Fred Hollows.
If coming into Bourke from the north along Mitchell Hwy, continue passed the Back O’ Bourke Exhibition Centre for 1.1km. Turn right into Mitchell St, and follow for 700m, and turn left into Richard St towards Cobar continuing on the Mitchell Hwy. After 1.6km, turn left into the Bourke Historical Cemetery with the brown sign for Fred Hollows.
If coming into Bourke from the north along Kamilaroi Hwy, entering town continue straight ahead for about 1.2km, and turn left into Richard St towards Cobar continuing on the Mitchell Hwy. After 1.6km, turn left into the Bourke Historical Cemetery with the brown sign for Fred Hollows.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes