Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing Catherine King today launched a community education campaign directed to Australians of different religious and cultural backgrounds to highlight among them the importance of organ and tissue donation.
Ms King launched the 'DonateLife...the greatest gift' campaign at the national launch of DonateLife Week at Kirribilli House, which was co-hosted with Mr Tim Mathieson.
DonateLife Week (24 February – 3 March) is Australia's national awareness week to promote the importance of family discussion about organ and tissue donation decisions and is led by the Organ and Tissue Authority.
Ms King said the new campaign, developed by the Organ and Tissue Authority in consultation with religious and community leaders, gives Australians from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds access to culturally appropriate information about organ and tissue donation.
"Knowing your faith or culture's position is very important for families when deciding about organ and tissue donation," Ms King said.
"Organ and tissue donation and transplantation is an issue that affects people from all walks of life. Having access to culturally appropriate information is key to ensuring all Australians, regardless of their religious or ethnic background, are well informed about organ and tissue donation.
As part of the campaign, religious and cultural leaders from the Buddhist, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic faiths have signed a DonateLife Statement of Support acknowledging organ and tissue donation as an act of compassion and generosity.
"I would like to thank the many faith and community leaders who have generously agreed to participate in this campaign. This will help to make Australians aware that many faiths accept organ and tissue donation as an act that saves lives," said Ms King.
Ms King said, "The launch of this campaign marks the start of our long term engagement with Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse communities. I look forward to continuing our dialogue with other faith and community groups."
Latest research commissioned by the Organ and Tissue Authority shows that religious reasons are the most common barrier preventing some culturally and linguistically diverse audiences from supporting organ and tissue donation, and the third most common barrier overall.
Also highlighted was the importance of family discussion. Results showed 86% of Australians would consent to organ and tissue donation if they knew their loved one was willing. In contrast only 56% said they would consent if the wishes of their loved one were unknown.
"If you want to become an organ and tissue donor, it's important to let your family know so that they can confidently honour your donation decision should the situation arise," said Ms King.
Currently, 44% of Australians remain unsure about the donation wishes of their family members.
Opportunities for organ donation are rare. Less than 1% of all deaths in hospitals are in the specific circumstances where organ donation is possible. Many more have the potential to become tissue donors.
In addition to its community education efforts, the Organ and Tissue Authority is also undertaking important work in collaboration with the health sector.
"More than 500 donation specialists and clinical staff in ICUs, Emergency Departments have now received intensive training in Family Donation Conversations. The Family Donation Conversation training ensures that the families of potential donors are supported by specialist staff when required to make a donation decision about their loved one - often in very traumatic circumstances," said Ms King.
Australia's donation rates have steadily increased since the introduction of the Australian Government's national reform agenda in 2009. In 2012, the generosity of 354 organ donors and their families who agreed to donation gave 1,052 Australians a second chance at life.
'DonateLife...the greatest gift' campaign resource kits will be distributed to over 500 religious and community organisations during DonateLife Week to seek local community support to promote family discussion about organ and tissue donation.
For nation-wide event information for DonateLife Week (24 Feb – 3 Mar) visit www.donatelife.gov.au