Professor A A. Hughes from the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University was appointed Director of the Institute in 1983. He was the first NVRI Director to be accorded the rank of professor under an agreement between the NVRI and the University of Melbourne.
His research theme was "the Eye from Birth to Old Age" and a new direction of research was followed; new facilities for optical, neurophysiological and pathological investigations were constructed.
Dr David Vaney joined the Institute in 1984 having completed a fellowship at Cambridge University. He brought with him advanced techniques to record from and stain the processes of selected cells in living, isolated, retina for combined anatomical and physiological studies. Important progress was made in resolving detail at the cellular level of the living human retina by Dr Willam Jagger. Research on the development of myopia continued.
Dr Rachel O.L. Wong joined the Institute as NVRI Research Fellow in 1996, quickly establishing herself as a strong investigator in retinal anatomy and early retinal development.
The NVRI flourished with some 17 different research projects were under way under the broad headings of optics of the eye, retinal cell topography and development of the eye. The research was well supported by grants from the NHMRC, Dr David Cockburn, Chairman of the Board of Administration of the NVRI since its inception stepped down from that post in May 1989. He had been honoured by the award of the medal of the Order of Australian in 1982 for his contribution to scientific research and the profession of optometry. In 1987 he was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa in the University of Melbourne, He was succeeded as Chairman of the NVRI Board by Dr Rodney Watkins, who had been a member of the Board since its inception.
Professor Robert C. Augusteyn was appointed Director of the NVRI in 1991. Professor Augusteyn was previously Reader in Biochemistry at the University of Melbourne, and was an acknowledged world-leader in the field of biochemistry of the lens and cataract formation. New programs on the biochemistry of the lens of the eye, prevention of cataract, presbyopia and the retinal dystrophies were initiated under Professor Augusteyn. The new theme of the NVRI became "The Ageing Lens and Visual Impairment".
Dr Barbara Pierscionek became the NVRI Don Schultz Fellow in 1991 and her work at the NVRI on the eye lens led to her being awarded the NHMRC Wright Fellowship (then, the youngest ever recipient). Dr Martin Tymms was appointed in 1998 to lead a new molecular biology of vision unit on age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The NVRI was able to acquire more floor space as a result of the re-building program of the Australian College of Optometry
Membership of the NVRI rose to 600 during this period and was continuing to grow each year. The NVRI itself also grew numerically with nineteen staff, the largest it had ever been.
Professor Augusteyn was instrumental in securing funding and support for the Victorian Centre for Research on Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), which was established in 1994. This new centre was supported by the Australian RP Association and the Victorian RP Society. Retinitis Pigmentosa had become a focus for Professor Augusteyn and his staff, and establishment of the Centre was a logical extension of their work.
Dr Rod Watkins stepped down as Chairman of the NVRI Board in 1997 and was succeeded by Mrs Susan Kalff.
In 2002, after nearly eleven years as Director, Professor Augusteyn stepped down from his position to pursue research independently. Professor Augusteyn's Institute, over the years, provided innumerable contributions, both large and small, to vision research, and the field of biochemistry. As the longest-serving NVRI Director, Professor Augusteyn had the task of steering the Institute through an era of low funding and oversaw the major redevelopment and expansion of its home in Carlton.