Fred Hollows received a full state funeral when he died in February 1993; however, the grave of this New Zealand-born ophthalmologist is, in keeping with his wishes, ‘under a Coolabah tree at Bourke.’
It may seem surprising to many that such a dignified and nationally loved identity would choose such a final resting place, but for those who knew Fred (and there are still many in Bourke who did), it is entirely appropriate.
Fred devoted his life to improving the vision of thousands of people, and his egalitarian principles meant that he couldn’t ignore the appalling health conditions of Aboriginal people in the 1970s. These principles took him deep into the heart of the country, where he improved and restored the vision for thousands of Aboriginal people, pioneering techniques that he would alter, standardise, and expand to deliver the same outcomes to impoverished people of the world.
Fred’s work continues to this day through the Fred Hollows Foundation, a true legacy of his remarkable life. In addition, Bourke is proud to host and maintain a small memorial to Fred at his gravesite, a pilgrimage for some, a place of reflection for others, and a small testimony to the man who made such a difference to so many.