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John Curtin Medallists

John Fawcett (2003)

Known as “Dr John” by the village people of Bali, has experienced a major transition in his life. Formerly the head of the Department of Art at Perth Technical College and a nationally recognised potter, John now spends his days in Bali helping to improve prospects for the sick and the poor.

After suffering a debilitating back injury which took him to the brink of death, John moved to Bali on a semi-permanent basis in 1985 to recuperate and was overwhelmed by the support offered by the Balinese people. Since then, he has dedicated his life to helping those who have helped him. John’s determination to help others drove him to establish a mobile eye clinic in Bali, visiting those who were unable to get to the city for life-changing medical treatment to restore their vision. From his mobile clinic, up to 12 operations a day can be performed, giving hundreds of villagers the chance to see again.

Driven by his passion to improve people’s lives, John established the John Fawcett Foundation in 1989. In keeping with his inspirational style of leadership, John then expanded his humanitarian work into other areas of health care, such as reconstructive surgery, training for local ophthalmologists, a mobility program and a medical supply program. Since the Foundation began, more than 1,400 cleft palate and cleft lip operations and at least 57 life-saving operations on children have been performed. Eleven Indonesian ophthalmologists have been trained, and over 15,000 cataract sufferers and 400,000 eye patients have been treated through the sight restoration program. In recognition of John’s outstanding achievements, the Australian Government recently donated $2.4 million for the construction of a Community Eye Treatment Centre, with the foundation stone to be laid by Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

He has developed a program to assist children of poor families with school fees and books, and organised for millions of dollars of medical equipment to be transported from Australia to Balinese hospitals. John was also quick to respond to Bali’s greatest hour of need – last year’s Sari Club bombings – with the Foundation sending 50 Balinese victims of the tragedy to Australia for treatment.

John’s work continues to expand. Currently awaiting funding approval is a plan to establish a tuberculosis screening laboratory in Bali. The clinic aims to not only treat patients, but also work towards the prevention of further tragedy.

Since the start of his incredible journey from well-respected teacher and artist to humanitarian worker, John has given the Balinese community what many had only dreamt of. Through his extraordinary vision, leadership and the determination to succeed, thousands of people now have the chance to live a normal life again.

Work undertaken since receiving the John Curtin Medal

Since John Fawcett established the John Fawcett Foundation in 2000, the foundation has grown to provide free medical aid to thousands of disadvantaged Balinese people. These services include children’s corrective surgery, prosthetic eyes and other sight restoration procedures, assistance to desperately ill children and young people, and blindness prevention strategies.

For his exemplary humanitarian services, John and the foundation have gone on to receive wide recognition.

In the year John was awarded the John Curtin Medal, then Prime Minister John Howard granted aid funds to the Bali Department of Health to build a memorial eye treatment centre so that John’s work could continue and expand.

John was awarded an Order of Australia medal in 2004, and in 2008, then Indonesian president Dr H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono presented him with the Satyalancana Kebaktian Sosial (National Indonesian Award), for his outstanding humanitarian work in Indonesia, especially in the provision of free cataract surgery to the poor in Bali and Nusa Tenggara Barat.

John received the Bishop Hale Medal in 2010, from his former high school, Hale School in Perth. In Indonesia, he was recognised also in 2010 for the foundation’s participation in the Corporate Social Responsibility program of the City of Denpasar (eye screening and cataract operations). He also received an appreciation award for the foundation’s support during the Air Force’s community humanitarian activities.

In 2006 and 2008, the John Fawcett Foundation was selected by the Balinese Government as the best foundation/NGO working in Indonesia.

John attributes the foundation’s success in Indonesia to the work of many dedicated volunteers. These include logistics people in Australia who organise medical equipment and supplies, fundraising volunteers, and medical personnel who travel to Bali to teach local doctors and medical staff new surgical techniques.

Sadly, John Fawcett passed away in August 2017.