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Launching of the Kidney Foundation donor card, Sydney, Sunday, 31 May 1998: address on the occasion of the opening.

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SUNDAY. 31 MAY 1988

It really is a very great pleasure for me, as Patron o f the Australian Kidney Foundation, and for Helen, as President o f the Australian Red Cross, to welcome all o f you to Admiralty House this afternoon on this very special occasion

Today is important for a number o f reasons First o f course, as you all know, it is National Organ Donation Awareness Day, a time when we seek to remind ourselves and our fellow Australians o f the gifts o f life and health that we can bestow on others by agreeing to become organ and tissue donors after death Yesterday, I was privileged to speak at an Ecumenical Service o f Thanksgiving at St Andrew’ s Cathedral I know similar services o f thanksgiving and celebration are being held this week-end in many other cities around our country.

Today also marks the beginning o f Kidney Week, an annual event which has particular significance in this, the 30m Anniversary year o f the Australian Kidney Foundation. It is a particular pleasure to have with us this afternoon several guests who have been associated with the Foundation from the beginning in its mission o f working towards the eradication and relief o f kidney disease

That mission is o f true national importance. Its benefits extend to Australians in all walks o f life and at all levels o f society Let me, for example, make special mention o f the recognition given by the Foundation to the need to improve the renal health o f Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples - and in particular the funding o f a medical registrar to assist the major study being conducted by Dr Wendy Hoy through the Menzies School o f Health Research in Darwin

The mission o f the Australian Kidney Foundation is also most effectively advanced through education Thus, the Foundation’ s recent award-winning education kit for the 16­ 23 year age group on “ Transplantation The Issues” , is among the very best o f its kind. That kit is but one example o f the Foundation’ s public information work - through brochures, publications, media awareness strategies and, not least, by support for organ donor cards.

Australia is among the world leaders in organ and tissue transplantation. Our medical procedures, facilities and skills and our survival rates are remarkably high. Sadly,

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however, our rates o f organ donation are among the lowest in the western world Last year, 190 Australians became organ donors Through their generosity, more than 700 people received direct organ transplants A great many others received cornea or tissue transplantation Nonetheless, the distressing fact is that there are still more than 3000 people, many o f them children, waiting for the telephone call that w ill tell them a suitable donor has been found for an organ, cornea or tissue transplant that may well save their lives or enable them to be cured from a debilitating disease or disability, such as blindness O f those 3000, some 1500 people are waiting for a kidney transplant O f them alone, it is estimated that, on average, 2 w ill die each week o f the year because their wait has proved to be in vain

It’s true that by agreeing to become a donor we inevitably have those “ intimations o f mortality” to which, as human beings, we are all heir It is also true that some people have religious or other objections to organ or tissue transplantation which must be respected. But most Australians have no such moral or ethical objections. I hope many more o f us w ill be encouraged to make the decision to become donors.

The most important way in which a prospective donor can ensure that effect is given to his or her wishes is by talking about it with the family so that surviving family members understand the reasons for the decision In some places in Australia, it is possible to endorse one’s driver’s licence. Throughout Australia, it is possible to carry a donor’s card like those issued by the Australian Kidney Foundation. I note that I have myself decided, after talking to my own family, to carry one o f the newly designed donor cards. Being a former lawyer, I was inclined to suggest that my card should carry a disclaimer to the effect that I am a 1931 model and that I offer no guarantee that any o f my vintage parts w ill be in good working order I am, however, assured that there is no need for that and that, in current circumstances, it is likely that some use could be made o f even comparative antiques.

The cards have been available for a number o f years And yet, as the Foundation itself acknowledges, they have tended to look rather official - even sombre - whereas the gift o f life or o f healing, which the act o f organ or tissue donation carries, is a wonderful and humane gesture. It is one, as I said yesterday, which helps give meaning to the great cycle o f life and death.

It is to reflect this truth, that the decision was made to redesign the Kidney Foundation cards. Each o f the new cards w ill carry the reproduction o f a painting by one o f a group o f well-known Australian artists ., Jack Absalom, Janet Brereton, Ken Done, Pro Hart and Roxanne Minchin Two o f these artists - Mr Ken Done and Ms Roxanne Minchin - are with us today. May I, as Patron o f the Australian Kidney Foundation, thank them all for their efforts. The new cards do indeed convey the sense o f beauty and o f goodness which underlies the gift o f health, and commonly o f life, involved in organ transplants.

Finally, I congratulate and thank the Australian Kidney Foundation, its officers, its staff and all its supporters, for 30 years o f service to our nation and for all the work that has been and that w ill be involved in the design, the production and the distribution o f this new donor card

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And now, on National Organ Donation Awareness Day and on this first day o f Kidney Week, 1998, I officially launch the newly-designed donor card for The Australian Kidney Foundation