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Opening address at the Connecting donation and transplantation: a decade of growth and collaboration conference

Article Date: 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


Australian government crest

The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP

Minister for Aged Care

Minister for Indigenous Health

Member for Hasluck

Good morning everyone – in West Australian Noongar language, I say “kaya wangju” – hello and welcome.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and future.

I also acknowledge:

  • Lucinda Barry (CEO of Australia’s Organ and Tissue Authority)
  • Chairman of the OTA Board, Dr Mal Washer and Board members:
    • Professor Carol Pollock (deputy Chair)
    • Dr Marisa Herson
    • Margaret Kruger
    • Oren Klemich
    • Prof Stephen Lynch

I welcome our special international guests:

  • Howard Nathan (President and CEO of the Gift of Life Donor Program in Philadelphia, United States)
  • Chris Callaghan (Consultant kidney and pancreas transplant surgeon at Guy’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Evelina London Children’s Hospital, London, UK)
  • Dr Nick Cross (nephrologist at Christchurch Hospital, New Zealand)
  • And all the distinguished attendees here today.

On behalf of the Morrison Government and the Organ and Tissue Authority, I thank you for joining us for this important conference.

Organ and tissue donation and transplantation is an area I am very passionate about, and one that is critical to our nations’ health systems.

We are celebrating 10 years of the Australian Government’s national program to improve organ and tissue donation for transplantation in Australia. At this significant anniversary, I think it is an important opportunity to reflect on how far we have come.

Since 2009, the national program has seen the number of deceased organ donors more than double – to 554 in 2018.

This has resulted in more than 11,000 people receiving a lifesaving transplant. There has also been more than 16,000 Australians receiving the gift of sight since 2009.

And last year, we achieved our highest ever consent rate of 64 per cent due to more Australians saying ‘yes’ to donation.

The data gives us essential facts but what has made this real for me has been talking to those families who have said yes to donation and those that have had their lives transformed by a transplant.

I heard from a teenage boy who talked about his Dad becoming a donor, and the comfort it gave him knowing his father had given someone else the chance to live. He spoke with pride about his Dad and pondered whether whoever had received his organs would also develop the same passions for life and sport that his father had.

And in January this year I was at St Vincent’s Hospital, here in Sydney. There I met Jayden Cummins – a single Dad who in 2017 was living a normal life, caring for his teenage son, when he contracted the flu.

His life was turned upside down when he was told he needed a heart transplant.

He showed me his black little bag with his Ventricular Assist Device that he was permanently attached to – keeping him alive.

He had been waiting about 18 months, however he remained positive and totally focused on being there for his son.

Today, I was informed that Jayden has had his transplant and is on the road to recovery.

I wish Jayden all the best and thank the generosity of his donor and their family for giving him the gift of life.

This is just one story that shows the importance of your work and the significant impact it has on people’s lives.

Like everyone attending this conference, our Government’s focus is on continuing to enhance clinical programs in hospitals, and the systems which support donation and transplantation services.

But what if we find a group of people within our communities who are not receiving their fair share of increasing organ donation and transplantation?

Last year, I saw figures showing that, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people registered for Renal Replacement Therapy, only 13 per cent received transplants, compared with 51 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians.

So, in June I announced funding for the Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand to lead an expert panel, to investigate and identify transplantation barriers facing our people.

The expert panel, convened by Prof Stephen McDonald, has produced an outstanding report: Improving Access to and Outcomes of Kidney Transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in Australia.

I want to thank all members of the panel for their contribution to this comprehensive document, which I am releasing - and endorsing - today.

Furthermore, I am proud to announce that the Morrison Government will provide $2.3 million to drive a national project to lift the low rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians receiving donor organs, as recommended in the report.