Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (12:44): [by video link] This is my first opportunity to participate in the virtual parliament, so I want to extend my thanks to the staff of the parliament who've made this possible. I couldn't miss the opportunity to speak on the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority Amendment (Governance and Other Measures) Bill 2021. As has been indicated by previous speakers, it is a fairly technical bill, about the roles of the board and the CEO of the Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority, in effect going back to those roles that were established at the time the federal Labor government created the authority. So I'm certainly happy to support the bill. But, in the context of the bill, I want to talk about why it is such an important issue and why I feel very passionate and take every opportunity I can to support a more effective national organ donation scheme.
For many, many years in my local area I have been inspired by an amazing young woman called Jessica Sparks. Jessica is a double lung transplant recipient and a simply amazing young woman. She has put so much energy and passion into establishing her own organisation, called Sparking Life, to boost organ and tissue donation in Australia. She just inspires so many people. In 2013 she was the Wollongong Young Citizen of the Year, and in 2016 she received the University of Wollongong's top student prize, known as the Chancellor Robert Hope Medal. Jessica really got the message out. She does such a great job in letting people know what a difference organ donation can make to the lives of people who desperately need it. Jessica is a cystic fibrosis sufferer and her voice really moves people to understand the significance of this issue. I want to pay tribute to the great work Jessica does in promoting the importance of organ donation.
Recently, sadly, I've talked to the House about another great local, Keith Caldwell. I spoke to the House at the time because the community here and Keith's family had lost him. He died suddenly. He was a leading president, participant—I couldn't list all the roles that Keith had with the surf lifesaving movement. He was also a former police officer. I want to talk about Keith today as an organ donor. With the indulgence of the House, I think it couldn't be put any better than in the words of Keith's own family. Many people contributing to this debate have talked about how important it is, at that point of decision, for family members to know what your wishes were. Keith's family spoke to the Sydney Local Health District this year, for DonateLife Week, recognising how important organ donation is. His wife, Maria, is another wonderful champion in our community, and she said to the local health district:
After 45 years of life saving, he is now a lifesaver. He was saving lives right to the end.
Keith, who was 60 at the time, donated his liver, kidneys and musculoskeletal tissue, including heart valves and other heart tissue, bones, tendons, ligaments and skin. As a result, two people on the nation's transplant waiting list received a new kidney, while another received his liver but, sadly, later had have another transplant. His musculoskeletal tissue was stored with the New South Wales Tissue Bank. His heart and lungs were also suitable for transplantation but, because of his rare blood type, a match wasn't found, sadly. Maria said:
The process to donate organs and tissue is very thorough and, at a time of deep sadness, could be considered very confronting. But, with the possibility of saving other people from the heartache we as a family were going through, it gave us hope and comfort.
Almost 80,000 people die in Australian hospitals each year, but only about two per cent can be considered for organ donation. Some of the previous speakers have made the point that it requires very specific circumstances. However, there are many people waiting to be the recipient of those gifts that people make by organ donation. Last year the Sydney Local Health District reported 463 deceased donors and their families saved the lives of 1,270 recipients. This year, there are 1,650 people waiting for a transplant.
I'm registered with the Australian Organ Donor Register. There are about seven million Australians who have done so, but there are about another 13 million aged over 16 who are eligible to register. As with all other speakers in this debate, I would strongly encourage them to look to do so. Maria Caldwell described Keith's organ donation as the greatest gift of all, and indeed it was. She said this was Keith's last act of selflessness and giving to the community. Please, please, please: have this discussion with your loved ones; let them know your wishes.
The two things I'm going to reiterate, as have other speakers in this debate, are for people to go to the DonateLife website—it doesn't take more than a minute or so to register, and then you will be on that official register—and then have the conversation with your family. Consider the situation they will be in if they have to make this decision, and how much easier it will be for them to have a very clear view of what your wishes are because you had that conversation. From these two inspiring Wollongong people, an organ donation donor and recipient—Keith and Jess—nothing could put it more clearly than their words that this is something that our communities really must do. I know during COVID it's tough, and we are having so many tough conversations as it is, but I really encourage people to have this one and to make sure that their views are known.
Watch Sharon’s speech here.