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History of the NVRI

                                             Professor Barry Cole

Small beginnings in 1968

A $3.29 lunch in 1968 marked the beginning of the idea to establish a National Vision Research Institute. There were three people at the lunch: the Director of the Australian College of Optometry, Dr Barry Cole; the Secretary of the College, Miss Jean Colledge and Dr David Cockburn, an optometrist and part-time lecturer in the College. They agreed that there was a crying need for a new organization in Australia devoted to research in vision and vision disorders. Barry Cole and Jean Colledge paid for the lunch because they knew that the project would only succeed with someone like David Cockburn leading the team. Little did he know they had locked him in for a great deal of voluntary  work for the next 16 years.

Miss Jean Colledge
Miss Jean Colledge Dr David Cockburn

An appeal for funds 1969

Between 1969 and 1972 the ACO conducted an appeal to create the ‘Optometric Clinical Sciences Research Fund’.The purpose of the fund was to establish research in optometry and related sciences and their plan was endorsed by the Council of the Australian College of Optometry. A nationwide fund raising appeal was launched to optometrists, the optical industry and the public on Valentine's Day, February 14 1969 in Ballarat. The relatively small number of optometrists practising in country Victoria who attended were enthusiastic about the plan and dug deep in their pockets. Barry Cole, Jean Colledge and David Cockburn then conducted fund raising dinners in the capital cities of every State of Australia and numerous regional cities to persuade optometrists and leaders of the optical industry to contribute. The target was $100,000 but well over $200,000 was raised.

Advisory committee established 1969

The funds raised were accumulated in a fund known as the National Optometric Clinical Sciences Research Fund, the trustee of which was the Council of the Australian College of Optometry. The Council formed a National Vision Research Centre Advisory Committee in 1969 to be responsible for realising the plan for a National Vision Research Institute.

David Cockburn was appointed chairman of the Committee. The first members were: Geoffrey Bennett and Lloyd Hewett, optometrists from Victoria and New South Wales respectively; Arthur Ley from Tasmania and David Pank from South Australia, who were members of the Federal Executive of the AOA; Max Watson, the Federal Director of the AOA; John Newton, the chairman of the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association; Ivor Lewis, Chairman of Trustees of the AOA Development Fund; the President of the College, John Nathan; and Alan Johnston a research fellow in the College. Jean Colledge and Barry Cole were also members.

NVRI founded 1972

It was that committee which decided the new research centre should be called the National Vision Research Institute of Australia and it was formally constituted on November 22, 1972 the College Council passed a resolution to establish the NVRI as the research division of the ACO. A constitution was adopted to establish the NVRI as a self-governing entity within the Australian College of Optometry. Dr David Cockburn was elected the first Chairman of the NVRI Board of Administration.

NVRI gets its own building 1974

Honorable Rupert Hamer and Professor Peter Bishop at NVRI opening
Honorable Rupert Hamer and Professor Peter Bishop at NVRI opening

Property adjoining the College, at 380 to 386 Cardigan Street, was purchased in 1970 and Kevin Makin was appointed architect to design a purpose built home for the new research institute. The new building was occupied in December 1974 and officially opened in May 1975 by the Premier of Victoria, the Right Honorable Rupert Hamer E D. The oration at the opening was given by Professor Peter Bishop, Professor of Physiology at the John Curtin School for Medical Research and leader of the highly successful vision research group in that university. He was the ‘Dean’ of vision science research at the time.

The interior was a statement in itself with iconic 70's style of the time again part of the design vision by AGE/RAIA House Of The Year Award Medal winning architect Kevin Makin. See images below including staff Jean Colledge , Dr David Cockburn in the Director's office and the NVRI foyer entrance area. Unfortunately today this is no longer how it looks inside the NVRI building due to having been updated.

Directors Office NVRI NVRI foyer

NVRI Directors office Miss Jean Colledge and Dr David Cockburn

NVRI foyer










First research starts in 1974 >