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Portrait image of James Muecke
A statue of ornately carved from black wood, with 'HAWAII' in large letters at the base. - click to view larger image
Statue of Kahuna Akamai

Eye surgeon and blindness prevention pioneer
South Australia, 2020 Australian of the Year

Ophthalmologist Dr James Muecke AM is passionate about fighting blindness.

He is a co-founder of Sight For All, a charity that aims to eliminate blindness through research, education, infrastructure, and the training of colleagues in partner countries.

James believes blindness is a human rights issue and is working to create a world where everyone can see.

Kahuna Akamai statue

Shocked by the high levels of blindness in Asia, James co-founded Sight For All.

Through collaborative research, comprehensive education and infrastructure support, the organisation creates sustainable, in-country solutions that have long-lasting positive effects.

James found this statue in Honolulu when he was 11 years old. After discovering it was the Hawaiian god of wisdom, he knew he had to have it.

Watching over me

I already knew that I wanted to be a doctor so when I read on the back of the statue that the god would help children with their studies, in particular with passing exams to enter medicine, I pleaded with my parents to buy it for me. It has watched over me throughout high school, medical school and ophthalmology training, guiding me to the wonderful place that I’m in today. 

Boost in confidence

When my youngest son was preparing for his second attempt at medical school, I handed over my statue. He was successful, which made me incredibly proud. While I realise he got through on his own merits, perhaps the statue boosted his confidence. It makes me smile to ponder the power of self-belief versus faith.

Big picture

To see people who are blind because of diseases that could have been avoided is incredibly confronting. The work that Sight For All does not only restores sight to those who are needlessly blind, but also improves their life expectancy and alleviates poverty. Changing the life of an individual is a powerful investment. Changing the lives of one million people each year changes the world.

This exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with the National Australia Day Council. Portrait images supplied by the National Australia Day Council.

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