NVRI history

0407 B Donald Mitchell. First NVRI Director

Don Mitchell, the first Director of the NVRI

The National Vision Research Institute of Australia (NVRI) was established in 1972. Research commenced in 1974 with Dr Ian Bailey winning a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant to look at the visual performance and optometric management of patients with severe visual handicap due to low vision caused by age-related macular degeneration. Ian and his graduate student Jan Lovie developed the world-famous Bailey-Lovie LogMAR chart and other novel near vision reading test charts, thus helping the NVRI to achieve lasting international recognition.

Using funds provided by the Victorian Government and generous ongoing support from Lions International, the NVRI appointed its first full time Director in 1978. Dr Donald E Mitchell joined the NVRI having qualified in optometry at the University of Melbourne and having trained in research at the University of California, the University of Cambridge and Dalhousie University.

Since 1978, the NVRI has had seven Directors of high international research standing.

  • Prof Don Mitchell (1978 – 1980)
  • Prof Jack Pettigrew (1980 – 1983)
  • Prof AA Hughes (1983 – 1991)
  • Prof Robert C Augusteyn (1991 – 2002)
  • Prof Paul Martin (2002 – 2009)
  • Prof Sarah Hosking (2010 – 2011)
  • Prof Michael Ibbotson (2011 – 2023)

Donald and Joyce Shultz

Philanthropic support has been essential to the NVRI funding model since its inception. Contributions from Lions International resulted in the establishment of the Lions Vision Research Fund in 1979, which, along with other Lions contributions continues to provide valuable funding to the NVRI each year. Also in 1979, South Australian optometrist Donald Schultz and his wife Joyce donated $250,000 to the NVRI. As a result, the Schultz, Laubman, Schultz Endowment Fund was created to help fund NVRI research activities. In 2001, the Schultz family donated a further $3.5million to the endowment fund. Most operational funds today come from competitive Government grants from the NHMRC and Australian Research Council, and several overseas granting bodies.

Over the last 50 years, the NVRI has researched a broad range of visual topics including quantitative eye charts, developmental disorders of vision, retinal development, visual impairment, lens biochemistry, comparative visual neuroscience, colour vision, understanding the visual brain, prosthetic vision devices, neurotechnology and visual perception.

The NVRI has always been closely linked with the University of Melbourne. A Memorandum of Understanding has been in place since 2015 that formalizes the strong relationship between the two organizations.

Today the NVRI still sells the LogMAR chart to optometrists and other health care providers around the world. Former researchers have received international awards of high distinction including the Order of Australia. The NVRI is a highly-regarded institute undertaking important research on the eye and visual system, publishing output in high impact peer reviewed journals and presenting at conferences internationally.