16 June 2023
The ACO is saddened to announce the passing of Ross Harris on 7 June 2023. Ross played an instrumental role in the ACO serving in various capacities over 35 years, including Clinical Instructor; Chair of the Human and Animal Research Ethics Committee for over a decade; and member of the National Vision Research Institute (NVRI) Finance Committee.
Ross was granted ACO Fellowship in 1985, NVRI Life Membership in 2002 and ACO Life Membership in 2012.
“Optometry has just lost one of its most distinguished servants and leaders”, said long-time friend and colleague Peter Dwyer in a tribute graciously provided to the ACO. “The profession and his friends have lost one of nature’s great characters and unique contributors”.
After graduating from the University of Melbourne in 1963, Ross went into practice with Wolfgang Gartner, a long-time ACO contributor and one of Ross’ lecturers. The pair were joined by Terry Blake in 1969 and later became ‘Harris, Blake & Parsons Optometrists’. Linda Harwood took over as partner when Ross retired in 2008, after 45 years.
Alongside other optometry leaders, Ross was part of the generation which pushed the profession to expand its scope and competence, building optometry a new standing as a primary eye care profession. He pursued optometry at a challenging time for the profession; the average age of an optometrist was 63 and people turned towards eye doctors for their care due in large part to discriminatory health fund rebates. Ross also faced difficulty finding ophthalmologists who were willing to lecture optometrists as part of the 2-day ‘Southern Regional Congress’. His enthusiasm caught the attention of OA Councillor Michael Aitken, and he was encouraged to stand for Council, thus beginning a long career in professional affairs.
His dedication to the broader profession was fulfilled in active service to the Optometry Australia as a Councillor, as State President 1975-77, and as Victoria’s National Vice President delegate to the National body for over a decade. From 1983-86 he took on the role of National President. Ross was one of the youngest ever state presidents, elected to that position in his mid-twenties. Ross was honoured with Life Membership of Optometry Australia.
In addition to Ross’ role as Clinical Instructor at the ACO, he was an early supporter of the vision research undertaken by the organisation and was a Foundation Member of the National Vision Research Institute (NVRI) and NVRI Governor. In 2002, Ross was awarded a NVRI Life Membership. He spent ten years actively involved in the NVRI Board of Administration in various capacities, serving as the Deputy Chairman from 1989-1996 and continued to contribute by chairing several of their committees thereafter until 2001.
“Ross also developed many interests outside the profession’, continued Peter Dwyer. “These included a debating team with practice partner Wolf Gartner; cultivating Australian native plants; an occasional golfer, and an occasional skier; a wholly unjustifiable preference for French cars; and a lifelong interest in fine wines. At one stage he even developed a small vineyard on an orphan plot of land defined by the width of just one twentieth of its length. Friends and family enjoyed a hilarious luncheon soaking up his only vintage.
“The profession and society has lost a one-off. Hardly anyone these days would give nearly four decades to a cause, let alone have a varied life and do so with such good humour. Thanks Ross, well done.”
Vale Ross Harris.
A service celebrating Ross’ life will be held at White Lady Funerals 741 High St, Kew East, Vic at 2pm on Monday 19 June 2023.