National Arboretum, Canberra
25 November 2018
I say “kaya wangju” – hello and welcome in Noongar language.
I have talked to so many people on the ground who are waiting for transplants. People who talk about the impact on their family. I met a couple who allowed me to sit in on their specialist consultation in Sydney. He invited me into the room and allowed me to look at his liver images and how it had reduced.
But the most telling comment came from his wife, who said: I’ll be glad when we find a liver donor.”
Because she said: “We confine ourselves to our home, to the footprint in which our mobile phone works because I am terrified of leaving the footprint, being somewhere and a call comes and we miss out and I lose my husband because he has to wait longer. And the children both saying to me: We can’t wait until Dad is able to play with us again, is able to read us the stories at night and not be tired.”
And a sportsman who, when I stood on the ground with him at Sydney FC, said to me: “My life is now full again. I’m able to play at the competitive level. I’m able to fulfil my dream of being a player for my club and contributing. And he said all because somebody was selfless in making a decision to become a donor.”
And then I’ve met the donor families.
I heard a young boy read a poem at a school, and he wrote about his Dad being a donor. And he said: “I wonder if the person who received my Dad’s liver follows the Wallabies, because my Dad was a great fan of the Wallabies. Or if the person who received my Dad’s kidneys goes to sport every Saturday with his children, like my Dad did.”
And he talked about the qualities of his Dad, of how he hoped that the gift of life his father gave would manifest itself in the qualities that he saw in his father. And he said even though he lost his father, he knows that his father lives on and that his heart still beats in somebody.
But the other one that also impacted was a young girl who was interviewed on television, who was talking about the impact on her family.
Her mother had passed on, and her mother an organ donor. And she said: “Me and my sister have lost our Mum but we do know that our Mum has made some other little girl and their sister happy because our mum gave her organs.”
And I think the symbolism of the Gift of Life Garden outside reflects the diversity of the people that I’ve met and the medical profession, who are steadfast in the work that they do in the transplants that occur across this nation.
But also to the Organ and Tissue Authority, the work that you, collectively, do.
Because when I was listening to my colleague from the ACT, whilst you described each garden, what I had in mind was:
If we start with a children’s garden we start life with exuberance, we’re immortal, we’re there to have fun. But every now and again, something goes wrong. And on that journey through the gardens you go to an area that gives you an opportunity to reflect, not only on your wholeness, but on the opportunity that you’ve been given to have a role in allowing somebody to have a gift of life.
And then, ultimately, when we go to the final garden, it reflects the solidness of our nation. Not only in its millenniums of existing as a continent and it’s particular resilience through drought, flood, disaster - but the resilience of humanity. And I look at Australians around me wherever I go, and even in times of despair and concern. While they’re waiting - and then talking with a couple today - their patience knowing that at some stage they’ll get a call and a kidney will be offered.
The reliance and toughness doesn’t diminish, and I think our garden in the middle is a great opportunity to look at the connection of the continuity of life that prevails for all of us.
But also the opportunity we have to make a decision when the time arrives – that either us as individuals or our families – to make that decision to give the gift of life.
And I want to acknowledge everyone here today. I want to acknowledge every donor family across this nation who have been selfless in supporting a loved one, by honouring a decision that they have made to share the gift of life with someone else.
But equally, to all of those who are the advocates, who are the ones who continually champion the changes that we need in the work that you do.
And so I compliment everybody, and it is always a great privilege to be amongst those who are care – the givers and their families, but importantly, those who at some point will enjoy the benefits of the gift of life.
So it’s a privilege being here and I thank you all.