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Congratulations ACOD Class of 2022

Optical Dispensers Australia (ODA) would like to congratulate the 45 students from all over Australia that took to the stage in Sydney on Friday night to receive their Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing qualification. The ACOD graduation event took place in a spectacular setting in the Ballroom of Luna Park with the night lights of Sydney Harbour as the backdrop. This was the largest graduation cohort of Optical Dispensing students in Australian history and a wonderful indication of our professions incredibly bright future.

Honorary Guest, Optical Dispensers Australia CEO – April Petrusma, delivered a moving keynote address to more than 150 attendees including graduates, family, friends and industry delegates.

ODA’s Advisory Board were also thrilled to be guests of the event, with all nine members present to represent the forward moving direction of Optical Dispensing in Australia.

If you missed the event and would like to hear what April had to say, you can read her address below:

For those of you who I have not had the pleasure of meeting previously, either in person or online - my name is April Petrusma. Some of you would know me from ACOD where I have been teaching for the past 5 years but tonight I have been given the great honour to address you as the CEO of the newly established, Optical Dispensers Australia.

I am going to begin my address by sharing a statement that was written and sent to me for tonight’s Graduates by an industry associate of mine in the UK, President of the International Opticians Association – Fiona Anderson.

Fiona Says:

“Today you graduate, you are no longer students, but qualified in your own right, and, you justly deserve this ceremony and the praise of all who supported you to get to this day.

This ceremony marks the ending of one era & the beginning of another: from today, you embark on your career, your profession, your vocation - think of it as a new beginning, and, the good you will do in society – helping people is at the centre of what we do. Hopefully at some point in the future we will be able to meet in person at a Conference or a trade show – until then please accept my hearty Congratulations, enjoy your celebrations & the journey in optics you have before you.”

To elaborate on Fiona’s words – I believe it is important that you understand the magnitude of what you have achieved here. You have not only gained an Australian, nationally recognised certificate (not to mention jumping over all the hurdles that came along with gaining a qualification during a global pandemic) – you have also positioned yourselves amongst a community of Dispensing Opticians on an international level. You are part of a global group of qualified professionals with the incredible ability to help people see.

Remember when you were a child and your teacher asked you, if you could have a super-power, what would it be? You let your imagination run wild dreaming of flying, becoming invisible or travelling at the speed of light. Did any of you imagine in your wildest dreams that you would actually grow up and gain a super-power? Because that is what you have done. As Optical Dispensers, you quite literally have the power to give sight and improve the vision of another human. If this sounds a little extreme - think about what you do everyday!

There really is no greater gift than sight and you personally play a role in the visual outcomes of every single person you serve in your practice. Your skills and your abilities should never be undervalued as even the smallest action from you can change someone’s life. You are not just another cog in the wheel in your workplace, you have a super-power and provide something very special with your vast skill set and immense amount of knowledge.

A patient’s perception of their whole experience when visiting an Optometry practice is almost entirely based on their interaction with the Dispenser and the outcomes from that interaction. You are often the first and last person they see during their visit and then again upon return for collection or maintenance.

I personally recall a time, very early on in my career, where a patient came back to me after a frame adjustment to thank me directly and tell me that they have never seen clearer nor have they ever been more comfortable wearing a pair of glasses. I remember thinking – “I did that” – “I am the reason they can see better” – And how satisfied I was. I have had many more of these moments since and it really is the times like that, that cement my reason for career choice.

For those that don’t know me, I have not always been an Optical Dispenser, but this is a career I carefully chose nearly ten years ago and I have never looked back. Aside from the self-satisfaction, I have never looked back because I love what I do. I love that no two days are the same, I love that I get so much pleasure out of helping people and I love that my skillset is so diverse that it cannot be summed up in a single sentence.

For your families and friends here tonight – the ones that have supported you through your studies, seen you throw your calculator across the room or witnessed you explaining ocular conditions to yourself in the mirror and still ask what an Optical Dispenser actually does (and rightly so), allow me to answer this for you (in a lot more than a single sentence)…

  • We interpret optical prescriptions written by Ophthalmologists and Optometrists.

  • We provide advice to patients about frames and lenses.

  • We recommend products to meet the prescription requirements and the patients’ lifestyle needs.

  • We take facial, frame and lens measurements to accurately dispense an optical appliance.

  • We fit, adjust and repair optical frames.

  • Somedays we are magicians and other days we are superheros. (Anyone that has manipulated a frame back to a wearable state after it has quite literally been run over by a car, knows what I mean when I say this).

  • We offer advice on the care and use of contact lenses.

  • We are communicators and problem solvers.

  • Some of us even edge and fit optical lenses.

  • We are the face and the heart of the practice in which we work.

  • There are times that we are fashion models because the patient wants to see their choice of frame on someone else.

  • And the majority of us can hold an excellent poker face. A requirement when a patient hands you a pair of broken spectacles to fix that just happened to be like that when they woke up that morning and opened the case - through no fault of their own of course.

  • Last but not least, together with our Colleagues; Optometrists, Directors, Practice Managers and Optical Assistants – we are part of a clinical team. A team where everyone plays a different role, but where everyone’s role is critical and has the same common goal: To help people see the world around them.

Your achievement tonight is not the end of your path to success and your career growth, it is as Fiona said “the beginning.” This is the very start of your professional development and the first step on your path to a rewarding career. The optical industry in Australia has faced a number of challenges since it was deregulated in 2009.

For those that have been positioned in the industry throughout the last 13 years, we have seen many ups and downs. But fast forward to 2022 and there has never been a better time to be at the beginning of what will be a very fulfilling life-long career.

2022 is an important year in our professions history book and you are all a part of it. It has seen the launch of Optical Dispensers Australia, our countries brand new national body to offer you guidance, support and growth and after tonight - 2022 is the year that saw the largest Australian cohort of Optical Dispensers ‘ever’ graduate together with a formal qualification. What a momentous occasion to be involved in! You are now the future of our profession and will shape the industry for generations to come.

So what next? It is your job now to represent yourselves as professionals and to guide and encourage future students and colleagues. And whilst I’m sure that all of my own ACOD colleagues would love to be able to say that we have taught you everything that you need to know to be an exceptional Optical Dispenser for the rest of your career, unfortunately this is almost the case - but not quite entirely.

Your qualification has certainly equipped you with a wealth of knowledge and a high level of skills to serve your patients and to serve them well, but as we work in an ever-evolving industry where new technology and products are being developed all the time, the learning doesn’t stop here. As you leave tonight, you become the driver of your own continuing professional development.

The next part of your journey is:

  • To seek out opportunities to grow your existing skills

  • To keep relevant in the industry

  • To learn about new products as they are introduced

  • To ensure your knowledge stays up to date with industry changes

  • And to continue to grow...

CPD, in any capacity – whether it is formal or informal, opens you up to new possibilities, new knowledge, new skills and best of all keeps you interested.

CPD helps you continue to make a meaningful contribution to your team. In the short term this will see you become more effective in the workplace but in the long term it will assist you to advance in your career and move into new positions where you can lead, manage, influence, coach and mentor those around you.

You have graduated in a time where there are options to support you on this journey and to feed you the ongoing development as you seek it. In fact, this was one of the driving forces behind the foundation of Optical Dispensers Australia, where it is our sole vision to offer YOU – the newly graduated cohort of Optical Dispensers – and others just like you working in our industry, guidance, support and the opportunity for growth and development through an easily accessible CPD program.

We are here to ensure your learning journey doesn’t end, to help you achieve your goals and to remind you that you are part of a community.

Tonight I stand here delighted that you have all chosen to be our next generation of Australian Optical Dispensers. Ready to lead the way and make a difference in the lives of your patients and to make a valuable contribution to the professionalism of our industry.

Congratulations class of 2022!


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