As DonateLife week 2020 kicks off, Australians are urged to discuss organ and tissue donation with their families and to register as a donor with the Australian Organ Donor Register (AODR).

NSW Nationals Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said the dedicated week was a key part of a national program to increase organ and tissue donation and transplantation outcomes.

“With around 1700 Australians on the waitlist for a lifesaving transplant at any time and a further 12,000 on dialysis, the demand for donors has never been greater,” Mr Coulton said.

“I encourage every Australian to have that all-important conversation with their family about becoming a donor and to get online this week and register.

“It takes less than a minute to sign up and give yourself the chance to save a life; less time than it takes to make a cup of tea.

“The reality is that no country in the world has ever had enough donated organs to meet demand for transplantation, so it is critical that more Australians register to be donors, and talk to their family about it, so we can help save more Australian lives.”

The results of a community awareness survey, commissioned by the Organ and Tissue Authority (OTA) in May 2020, confirmed previous data that shows the majority of Australians support organ and tissue donation, with most motivated by a strong desire to help others and to do the right thing.

“Despite the huge support for donation among Australians, many people have not taken that important next step to register to be a donor,” Mr Coulton said.

“Being on the register, and having your family know you want to be a donor, could mean the difference between life and death for someone desperately needing a new heart, kidney, lungs, liver, pancreas or tissue.”

In 2019, nine out of 10 families agreed to donation when their family member was on the donor register. In Australia, donation is discussed in the hospital with families, who need to say ‘yes’ to donation for it to proceed. One of the reasons families say no to donation is because they are unsure what their loved one wanted.

Mr Coulton said the survey revealed that many Australians still mistakenly believed they may be too old, or too unhealthy, to be organ and tissue donors, so hadn’t bothered to register.

In fact, people of all levels of health and fitness can become donors, with people in their 80s having saved lives with their donation, according to the OTA.

“Don’t rule yourself out even if you think you’ve lived an unhealthy life or have suffered illness; let doctors make that decision if and when the time comes,” OTA chief executive Lucinda Barry said.

“If you are unable to donate organs, you could still transform the lives of others by donating tissue, such as bone, skin or corneas which could help someone suffering burns, a limb amputation or facing blindness.”

Mr Coulton said the impact of COVID-19 meant it was not possible for the usual community events to be held across Australia to mark DonateLife Week. The focus this year will be on enhanced digital activities to target key demographics who are under-represented on the register, including young Australians (particularly young men), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities.

The digital campaign will feature, and thank, many of the incredible donor families who have said yes to their loved-one becoming a donor. In 2019, donors and their families saved the lives of 1444 Australians. The campaign will also introduce some of those whose lives have been transformed by a transplant.

DonateLife Week runs to Sunday, August 2. It takes less than a minute to register to be a donor at donatelife.gov.au, all you need is your Medicare number.