Inventor Ray Avery named New Zealander of the Year
Ray Avery, inventor of medical devices that save the sight and lives of millions of the world’s poor, has tonight been named New Zealander of the Year by Prime Minister John Key.
Sponsored by Kiwibank and awarded for outstanding service, achievement and contribution to the nation, the award celebrates excellence and recognises inspirational New Zealanders.
Ray Avery, 62, is a former street kid turned scientist whose low cost, sustainable medical devices, invented in the garage of his Mount Eden home, are making a difference to millions of the world’s most vulnerable. His creations include intraocular lenses to combat cataract blindness, and the laboratories and technology needed to make them; an intravenous flow controller to prevent fatal drug administration errors, and a high tech low cost, low maintenance incubator that will save lives of premature babies in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa.
All Ray’s products have a global use, both in the developing and developed world, and the demand for them provides ongoing funds for his charity, Medicine Mondiale, which then reinvests them where they are needed most.
Ray was selected ahead of Olympic gold medallist Valerie Vili, and Warehouse founder and philanthropist Sir Stephen Tindall, to receive the premier award at this evening’s gala award presentation in Auckland.
Also honoured at the event were:
Sir Eion Edgar of Otago, named Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year for his lifetime of philanthropic service.
Divya Dhar, 24 of Manukau, named Coca-Cola Amatil Young New Zealander of the Year for campaigning against global poverty and climate change.
Haami (Sam) Tutu Chapman of Manukau, given the Kiwibank Local Heroes Award for his extraordinary work with gangs and communities at risk.
Victory Village in Nelson, given the Mitre 10 Community of the Year Award for creating strong support services for happy and successful communities.
In presenting the New Zealander of the Year Award, Prime Minister John Key said, "Ray Avery is a remarkable individual who overcame the odds to become an inspiration to all New Zealanders. This is a man who believed in himself and rose above his circumstances to attain excellence.
"This, in itself, is a noteworthy achievement - but what makes Ray Avery's story exceptional is his choice to share his success with those less fortunate. This is not just a celebration of one man's achievements, but a celebration of one man's determination to use those achievements to improve the lives of millions of people."
Accepting his award, Ray Avery said, "Before founding Medicine Mondiale, the charity that makes my work possible, I started by inventing things in my garage with the sole aim of making quality medical care available to the poorest of the poor. This award celebrates the Kiwi can do, number eight wire clever thinking which allows us to develop world changing medical products and save lives. I am deeply honoured to receive this award and immensely proud that New Zealand can take its place on the world stage as an inventive caring nation.”
Ray’s innovative mind is illustrated in his unique solution to treating child malnutrition. He developed a high protein, pre-digested formula using by-products from New Zealand's meat and kiwifruit industries. Production of the formula has created ongoing employment in Nepal, where he designed a state of the art factory to manufacture it.
A laboratory within the Nepalese factory and a purpose built factory in Eritrea, both using technology invented and gifted by Ray, together produce 13 per cent of the world market for intraocular lenses, making these life-changing lenses affordable to the poorest of the poor for the first time.
Ray developed his interest in science at the age of 14, when he found warmth in public libraries while living rough in London. He moved to New Zealand 40 years ago and spent 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry. He was a founding member of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Auckland before devoting himself entirely to finding solutions that combat global poverty and health issues.
Award patron, former Prime Minister and Chair of Kiwibank, Rt Hon. Jim Bolger said, “Ray believes in long term self sufficiency by gifting the technology that enables recipients to produce the devices in their own country. Because of Ray, an estimated 30 million people suffering from cataract blindness will have regained their sight by 2020. This is just one example of the difference the work of this brilliant New Zealander is having on the world.
“In his work to make the world a more egalitarian place, he has relied on the talents, entrepreneurial skills and generosity of New Zealanders. Here tonight, I share his confidence in the extraordinary difference our country can make. I am amazed by the overwhelming contribution made by people of all ages to their communities, New Zealand and the world at large. These awards give us a platform to celebrate and encourage Kiwis making a difference in our communities.”
The five award winners were announced from a list of three finalists in each category. They received a handcrafted, New Zealand made trophy and $5,000 each towards their work from principal sponsor Kiwibank. The 10 remaining finalists were also honoured at the event as High Achievers, receiving a certificate of appreciation for their contributions to New Zealand.
The New Zealander of the Year Awards recognise the outstanding achievements of individuals and communities across New Zealand, and acknowledge the inspirational influence their work has on society. The awards sought nominations from fields including the arts, sport, community and voluntary service, health, public service, the environment, tourism, business, rural, education, entertainment, science, technology and cultural development. Nominations from all New Zealand citizens were welcomed.
For more information: www.nzawards.org.nz