Eye and tissue donation awareness

Let's talk eye and tissue donation

Every April we shine a light on eye and tissue donation across our social media channels. Get involved by joining us on social media where we'll be answering questions, busting common myths, sharing stats and facts, showcasing people who work in the sector, as well as sharing stories from Aussies whose lives were saved or transformed when they received donated tissues.

Below you will find some resources to download and share across your own channels and within your communities as well as links to our social channels with more shareable content and heart-warming stories. 

About eye and tissue donation

Each year, thousands of Australian lives are changed through the gift of transplantation of donated tissues, including eye tissue.  

Unlike organ donation, where only around 2 percent of those who pass away in hospital can be considered as a possible donor, many more people can become eye and tissue donors. This is because you don’t have to die in a hospital setting to be considered for eye and tissue donation and the donation can occur up to 24 hours after death. 

Last year our data shows there were 1,472 deceased eye donors and 313 deceased tissue donors, as well as around 3,000 living tissue donors. This meant more than 2,400 people had their eyesight restored through a corneal transplant, and over 9,000 people received tissue (e.g. musculoskeletal, heart, skin) transplants – all thanks to the life-changing gift of donation. 

Tissue donation saves and transforms lives in many ways including saving burns victims, restoring sight, repairing heart defects in babies and adults, rebuilding tendons and reconstructing bones. 

Fast facts

  • One tissue donor can save or transform the lives of many more. Tissue saves burns patients through skin donation, babies and adults with new heart valves, restores sight through corneal donation and gives back mobility with tendon and bone donation. 

  • Eye and tissue donation can occur up to 24 hours after death and outside of a hospital. This means many more Aussies can become tissue donors than organ donors. 

  • Each year hundreds of deceased eye donors gift sight to hundreds of Australians waiting for corneal transplants. Since 2009 16,045 deceased donors have given the gift of sight to more than 26,000 Australians. 

  • Bone tissue is the most transplanted tissue in Australia. Long bone tissues can be used to replace those destroyed by cancer, while smaller sections of bones can be milled and used to fill areas where bone has been lost eg in the spine. 

  • When you donate your eyes both the cornea and sclera can help those in need. The cornea is the clear window at the front of the eye and the sclera is the white part of the eye. Cornea restores sight while sclera is used for patch grafts, surgical reconstruction or in operations to treat glaucoma. 

  • Except for blood transfusion, corneal transplants are the oldest and most common form of human transplantation. Corneal transplants help restore vision in people who have damaged cornea. Damage can happen through infection, injury or diseases like keratoconus. Corneal transplants couldn’t happen without cornea donors. Have you told your family you want to be a donor? 

  • Around one in every 200 surgeries performed in Australia uses human tissue graft. In 2021 there were 9,303 tissue recipients from both living and deceased donors. Tissue comes from tissue banks in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia who all work as part of the DonateLife network.

  • Skin donation isn’t just life-changing, it’s actually a life-saving donation. Around 50% of patients with large burns require donated skin to survive their injuries. Their injured tissue is removed and replaced with healthy tissue from a donor to protect the patient from infection until they are well enough to undergo definitive skin grafting. Without skin donation these burns patients would not survive their injuries.

Myth busters

  • Myth: Tissue donation will damage my body and my family won’t be able to say goodbye to me.
    Fact: Tissue donation is treated like any other surgery, surgical incisions are closed and dressed. The donor can be dressed with normal clothes for the funeral.
  • Myth: If I donate my eyes my face will look scary and sunken.
    Fact: A support is put in place of your eye and the eye lids are closed so no-one can tell you have donated your eye.
  • Myth: If I donate my bones my family is just going to be left with some floppy skin to bury… that will make them even more upset.
    Fact: Any bone tissue that is removed is replaced by supports to maintain the body structure and appearance. Surgical wounds will be close as in any surgical intervention and covered with appropriate dressings.
  • Myth: I’m too old or my eyesight is too bad to donate my eyes.
    Fact: Donor age is not that important – most eye donors are in their 70s. Eye donors can have any eye colour, blood type or level of eyesight. 

Eye and tissue donation stories