Standing up for Canberra

Donate for Life Week 2011

It is a great pleasure today to speak on this private member’s business. I have been involved in the organ and tissue donation sector for the last five years and, prior to becoming the member for Canberra, I was a volunteer director on the Gift of Life board for three years.

It was great to have celebrated last week the first national DonateLife Week and even greater not to be involved in endless weekends walking around tables stuffing show bags—that is one thing I do not miss. It has also been great to be in this new position to speak to a range of people, including this chamber as well as other parliamentarians, to promote the need to increase our organ and tissue donation rates. Last week, DonateLife Week, throughout Australia was about promoting the message that any day is a good day to talk about organ and tissue donation.

DonateLife Week is part of the Australian government’s national DonateLife awareness campaign to increase family discussion about personal donation wishes. Across the country, state and territory governments and their health departments join with the medical community, the not-for-profit sector and the many individuals and families affected by organ donation to lift Australia’s organ and tissue donation rate. The most important thing is that families need to know the wishes of their loved ones who have just passed on. That is what DonateLife Week is all about.

The DonateLife awareness campaign, launched in May 2010, produced a very positive increase in family discussion about donation wishes. The focus of this year’s campaign was to increase that level of discussion even further. In 2008 the government committed to a $151 million national reform program for organ and tissue donation. I commend and applaud the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for being one of the major drivers of this initiative. Last year was the first full year of implementing this world’s best practice national approach to organ and tissue donation. We have achieved the highest rate of donations ever in this country, which goes to show that when we all pull together we can achieve great results.

In 2010 a record 309 deceased Australians donated their organs and tissue for transplant—saving or improving the lives of 931 Australians. Here in the ACT the number of organ donors has been increasing every year from four multi-organ donors in 2006 to 10 in 2010—again the best number ever. The 10 multi-organ donors last year transformed about 30 lives and restored sight to about 40 people. As a result of the government’s initiatives, the DonateLife Network now consists of more than 242 professionals in 76 hospitals and eight DonateLife agencies in each state and territory, specialising in organ and tissue donation.

Two weeks ago the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, at the Australian Health Minister’s Council announced that in January there were 30 deceased organ donors, resulting in life-saving and life-changing transplants for 89 Australians—the highest outcome for January in Australia’s history. The challenge now is to sustain the increase and to build on it, because we still need to do much better. We need to normalise the subject of organ and tissue donation. Every Australian can be part of this national initiative by taking time to talk about being a donor, discover the facts, register their decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register and, most importantly, discuss their decision with their next of kin.

Public awareness is the crucial first step to raising Australia’s organ donation rates. I was pleased last Friday to attend the ACT Chief Minister’s Awards ceremony, where Jon Stanhope presented awards to five individuals and one community organisation for their contributions to organ donor awareness in the ACT. I would like to pay tribute to Genevieve Jacobs from 666 ABC Local Radio, who received an award for media support; Anne Cahill-Lambert, a tireless worker for this cause, who herself is awaiting a lung transplant, who received a special award for outstanding contribution; Karen Oliver, who received the Ben Wiseman award for health care; Steve Williams, who received the Mathew Reynolds award for community service; and the Lions Club of Canberra Belconnen who received the Jenny Deck award for community support. And I was humbled and honoured to also receive an award, the Annette Taylor award for community service. These individuals and the organisation are to be applauded. I encourage all Australians to talk to their families about organ and tissue donation.

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