2019 Donation and Transplantation Conference - Indigenous Health Roundtable Speech

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 would also like to acknowledge:

·       Lucinda Barry  (CEO of Australia’s Organ and Tissue Authority)

·       Chairman of the OTA Board, Dr Mal Washer and Board members:

o   Professor Carol Pollock (deputy Chair)

o   Dr Marisa Herson

o   Margaret Kruger

o   Oren Klemich

o   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 is 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.


It is untenable that Aboriginal people in need are having kidney and organ transplants at only around 25 per cent of the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.


Our people are nine times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be receiving kidney dialysis, and there is barely a family who is not affected by the devastation of renal disease, including my own.

The report prioritises three of its 35 recommendations:


·       Establishing a National Indigenous Kidney Transplantation Taskforce to consult with and advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients;

·       Enhanced data collection and reporting processes on pre- and post-transplant outcomes; and

·       Establishing an Indigenous reference group in every transplant unit, with the trialling of patient navigators and expansion of initiatives targeting cultural bias in health services


This project will provide a blueprint for improving and saving lives.

While there are many dedicated individuals and organisations - including Purple House, and Alan Cass and the Menzies Institute - making a big difference in treating and preventing kidney disease in Australia, we know we have to do better.


We need to lift transplant rates and ensure more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with renal failure have the opportunity to live their lives on country, connected with their communities.


As I said earlier, in the ten years since Australia’s national program started, organ donation has more than doubled, saving nearly twice the number of people every year.

It is only fair that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have equal access to the increasing rates of transplantation in Australia.


The report I am releasing today complements a review being progressed by Australia’s Health Ministers, to ensure the national health system has the capacity and capability to realise potential donation opportunities and improve access to transplantation.


I want to take the opportunity to thank all of you who have contributed to the Review - your input is critical as we look to the next decade of growth in Australia.


The report I am releasing today comes as the COAG Health Ministers Council has also endorsed progression of a national Renal Health Roadmap, to help in Closing the Gap in health equality.


I am also pleased to announce that a key Australian Government Budget initiative will be launched soon – when OrganMatch goes live next month.


The Organ and Tissue Authority, in collaboration with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, undertook a significant project to replace the ageing National Organ Matching System with a bespoke organ matching system.


OrganMatch is being delivered through state-of-the-art technology that will support optimal matching of donor organs to transplant recipients.


It will provide an enhanced platform for our transplantation sector to determine the most appropriate match of organs for transplant patients.


It will improve reporting on wait listing as well as the organ offer, allocation and acceptance process.

This is a very exciting piece of work and I look forward to the rollout of OrganMatch in April.


Future work is planned to deliver key enhancements to OrganMatch, including a clinician web portal, self-service reporting and a simulation module.

In addition to this work, we remain committed to building community awareness of donation and increasing registration and family conversation in the community – as both of these have an impact on consent rates.


In 2017 we launched a streamlined registration channel to make it much easier for Australians to register to be an organ and tissue donor – it now takes less than a minute.


This has no doubt contributed to the 12 per cent increase in the number of new registrations on the Australian Organ Donor Register in the past year.



Work is also well progressed around the development of a national policy framework to support the future viability of Australia’s eye and tissue sector.


This has been a collaborative effort of all governments and the sector, and will address the key recommendations of the 2016 Price Waterhouse Coopers Report into the Australian tissue sector.


Together, these two important pieces of work will ensure that Australia’s organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation sectors can continue to improve access to the transforming and life-altering effects of transplantation for more Australians.

In closing, I would like to make a special mention of the OTA and DonateLife teams. You are critical to both the success and future of our organ and tissue donation program in Australia.


We have come a long way with now over 260 donation specialist doctors, nurses and support staff covering 96 hospitals across the nation.


I am pleased to see so many of you in the audience today along with representatives of the transplant and eye and tissue sectors.


Thank you for your dedication, commitment and the valuable contribution you all make.


I declare the Connecting donation and transplantation: a decade of growth and collaboration conference officially open and I wish you all the best over the next 2 days.


Thank you.