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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4432


Mr MARLES (Corio) (10:08): Recently in my office, I had a young man, Louie, doing work experience. The story of his 18 years is one I think we can all learn from. Louie has kidney failure. While waiting for a transplant Louie spent years on dialysis. During his childhood, while he waited, he couldn't do the same things kids his age were doing—sleeping over, running around the schoolyard or even drinking water. For Louie, it was a four-year wait, one that took him to a depressing, dangerously dark place.

Neither of these facts, the length of the wait nor the impact on those waiting, is uncommon. Donate Life, created by the Rudd government in 2008, has increased organ donation rates, but the simple truth is that we do not see enough donations to save kids from suffering. Last year, there were 1,192 potential organ donors and 510 donations. I'm advised that since 2013 there have been 305 children on dialysis in Australia. One friend of Louie's spend 12 years waiting for a kidney transplant, a whole childhood. Louie told me the joy he felt when he heard the news that this friend had received a kidney. Imagine, if you can, the joy this teenager and their family felt after such a long period of waiting, and the freedom that came from that precious gift.

Australia uses an opt-in model for organ donation. Louie wants to see this change to an opt-out model instead, where people register their objection to donating their organs. This is a policy that saw 2,182 deceased organ donors Spain last year. Louie hasn't been sitting around hoping for change. He's been out with a petition gathering support. He's signed up Dr Cathy Quinlan from the Royal Children's Hospital, who said it would make the organ donation process even easier. 'I have four kids and a very busy job, and even though the process to sign up to be on the organ donation registry is really straightforward, I think a lot of people just don't get time to do it,' she said.

Louie believes an opt-out policy increases organ donation in a number of ways. For one, it will create a change in culture around organ donation. In Spain, opt-out saw an increase in donation rates from 14.3 per million people to 33.6 from 1989 to 1999, and it has now reached 46.9. The Australian donation rate, by comparison, was 20.7 per million last year. An opt-out policy would help increase conversation about organ and tissue donation and make sure the views of donors' families would still be respected. Like Spain, Australia has built a national body in charge of organ donation and the infrastructure to make sure these invaluable gifts find a home. There is no doubt that, as a parliament and as a country, we have a duty of care to Louie and others like him. It's time we made opt-out work.

Finally, can I acknowledge Louie Hehir, a student at Kardinia International College, Geelong, who prepared this speech.