Vinod Daniel OAM: King’s Birthday Honours 2023

Sydney's Vinod Daniel has been felicitated with the OAM in the King's Birthday Honours for service to conservation and the environment.

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Sydney’s Vinod Daniel has been awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his outstanding contributions to conservation and the environment.

As Chairman of AusHeritage, former Head of the Cultural Heritage and Science Initiatives Branch at the Australian Museum, and CEO and Managing Trustee of the India Vision Institute, Daniel has dedicated his life to preserving heritage, bridging the demand-supply gap in vision care, and empowering underprivileged communities.

Vinod Daniel’s journey as a cultural heritage and conservation advocate has taken him across continents, making a profound impact on individuals and communities. Born from a deep commitment to preserving and celebrating cultural heritage, his work has left an indelible mark on Australia and beyond.

“I began my journey in Australia in 1995,” Daniel shares. “I’d made a conscious decision to move here from the USA with a job offer from the Australian Museum and started work 4 hours after I landed as a new migrant! The role enabled me to start contributing to the conservation of cultural heritage globally as well as to Museum development. I have worked in over 45 countries including Australia on museum-related aspects and served in several global leadership roles.”

His Indian heritage has also led him towards initiatives in India over the last 25 years, including helping conserve the original document of the Constitution of India, restoration of the remnants of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s kurta pyjama, as well development of several museums there.

Vinod Daniel’s unwavering dedication and expertise have earned him global recognition, including serving as Vice Chairman of the Committee for Conservation at the International Council of Museums.

However, Daniel’s commitment to providing vision care to underprivileged communities in India truly sets him apart. As the CEO and Managing Trustee of the India Vision Institute (IVI), an NGO working to provide vision screening and free glasses to those in need, Daniel has transformed the lives of countless individuals.

“Imagine yourself as a 55-year-old, habitual of going about your day comfortably with a pair of spectacles improving your vision,” Daniel says. “Think about every discomfort and trouble you would face if you removed the spectacles that sit on your nose. That’s exactly the life for a lot of Indians every day.”

The IVI, a joint initiative of the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad and the Brien Holden Vision Institute in Sydney, has been conducting eye screening camps across 22 Indian states since its launch in 2012. Through these camps, the IVI has screened over 900,000 underprivileged Indians, providing free spectacles to all who need them.

“Incredibly, a simple pair of spectacles can do so much for people, both adults and children.”

IVI screening program
A screening program by IVI at Tamil Nadu (Source: India Vision Institute)

One of the beneficiaries of the IVI’s vision screening program, Kanchana, expresses her gratitude: “I happened to see a van offering an eye check-up on the way home from work. I got my eyes tested and was told I had poor vision. They provided me with glasses, and I can see much clearer now. I recommend this service to everyone like me who cannot access eyecare services.”

Through his tireless efforts and the support of the IVI team, Vinod Daniel has brought about significant positive change in the lives of individuals like Kanchana. The impact of providing free glasses goes beyond improved vision; it opens doors to better education, employment opportunities, and a brighter future.

While the OAM is a testament to Daniel’s remarkable achievements, he remains humble and grateful for the honour. “It is indeed an honour to be recognized,” he says. “The honour speaks of the Australian ethos, of a fair go and a recognition of one’s work, and to the contribution to the field one has devoted a considerable time to. It also denotes Australia’s cherished principles, including equal opportunities and the values the nation and the people attach to contributions, irrespective of race, colour, or creed.”

Looking ahead, Daniel envisions an even greater impact. “On our tenth anniversary, we endeavour to aim for a million screenings in the next year or so,” he expresses.

His ambition is fuelled by the happiness he witnesses in the eyes of those whose vision is corrected with a simple pair of glasses. With over 100 optometry institutes collaborating with the IVI, Daniel aims to bridge the demand-supply gap for vision care specialists, ensuring that the underprivileged receive the attention they deserve.

vinod daniel in india
(Photo: Supplied)

Through his work, Daniel embodies the spirit of empathy, compassion, and service. He urges the support of the Australian-Indian communities and beyond, stating, “It costs $1.80 to screen the eyes of a child in India, and probably about $5.50 to do the same for an adult. If more people support our cause, it can accelerate our mission.”

As Vinod Daniel continues to illuminate lives through his visionary initiatives, his journey stands as an inspiration for others to recognize the power of collective action in transforming communities and making the world a better place for all. His dedication and unwavering commitment exemplify the true essence of the Order of Australia Medal, shining a light on his exceptional contributions to conservation, cultural heritage, and the well-being of underprivileged individuals.

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