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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2350


Mr LAMING (12:32 PM) —It is right to talk up the importance of organ donation and placing our names as Australian citizens on the register. It is also right that we debate this twice in two sitting weeks. So if anyone thinks they have heard this before—dead right, they have, and it is worth speaking about on more than one occasion when it is as important as life and death decisions. I guess the great moral unease that many of us have is that 98 per cent of us would take an organ, just like that, but only 25 per cent of us are prepared to donate one. As I contemplate those figures, I look at how other economies promote organ donation and realise they are facing very similar challenges. So maybe I will use the short time available to me to look at what is happening in nations like New Zealand, Canada, the US and even Vietnam to raise organ donation rates.

The figures are well known to all of us. Only 20 per cent of Australians can recall specifically having had a discussion about organ donation, 40 per cent can say they do not actually know the positions of their own relatives as to whether they would donate an organ or not and only about 60 per cent of Australians at the moment would—when at that crunch point—decide to allow the organs of their relatives to be donated. I call it the 20-40-60 rule. We can do better, but we should never believe it is a simple matter to run a public awareness campaign and have those figures go up. It is much harder than it looks.

So I commend the work of the Organ Donation Register in Australia in putting out a very simple message: you can donate from the age of 18, and from the age of 16 you can indicate your interest to do so. It is not about medical research and it is not about looking at biomedical products and their development. This is about making a life-changing decision, because one person can change the lives of 10 or more people. At the moment, while 25 per cent of Australians are on the register in our nation, that is relatively low when we compare it to the levels in other countries. Whether or not you have ticked a box on your drivers licence, you have to make sure that you have made it really clear not just to one relative but to as many as you can, and to your close friends, that you wish to be a donor. And the Medicare card number is an important way of finding individuals as their information about donating and their consent to do so can follow them via a Medicare number, and that has significant advantages over not providing one. These are important messages to provide.

If we look across the Tasman, New Zealand have particular challenges with a large Maori population and, to reconcile the traditional concepts of mind and body with the more Western notion of donating organs, they have responded in an innovative way with radio shows referred to as ‘Te Ahi Kaa’. They are doing that exceptionally well. Those TV shows went to air only two or three weeks ago. There are inspirational stories in this seven-show series that are basically raising the issues but also making the populace aware of the massive benefits that can accrue from this one, single but timely decision often made by relatives who have not had that specific conversation. The UK have the Heart to Heart campaign, which encourages people to have dinners with colleagues, friends, family or fellow students to talk about the idea of donating. The UK, like Australia, have a large and well-funded transplant week and their organ donation percentages are slightly higher than ours. The UK also have the My Life, My Gift campaign, in which radio, cinema, libraries as well as health outlets are used to promote the idea of donating. The UK have a very detailed portfolio of things that you can do to increase organ donation rates. Some of the innovative ideas would not at first have come to your mind, such as being a mystery shopper and walking into health establishments and asking: ‘Where are the donation consent forms? They should be here.’ Another idea is for people to go to an empty office or unlet piece of real estate—of course the UK has plenty more of that than we do—and say: ‘Why can’t we put up posters inside those glass windows to publicise organ donation?’ The UK have lots of innovative ideas. They even provide a logo that you can drop onto anything that is being printed and disseminated about organ donation.

In Canada, the Organ Donation and Transplant Association are also doing great work by reaching out to around five million households and distributing nearly two million organ donor cards. They have a particular focus on teens. Their ‘Teens 4 Transplants’ contest encourages young people to talk to their families about organ donation. This is another great idea that we could take on. The USA have OrganDonor.gov—obviously doing work on an even grander scale. Even a nation such as Vietnam, a single party state, finds a way of involving its 7.6 million members of the Communist Youth Union to be pure of heart and mind and to step forward on Blood Sunday and give blood. They do that in large numbers. As a developing economy, they are finding ways to do that very successfully. Countries around the world are applying different solutions to the same problem. Australia can learn from some of these great ideas, and I commend the work of everyone working in organ donation.