I rise to make my contribution to debate on the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority Amendment (Governance and Other Measures) Bill 2021. Labor agrees to support the reasonable changes set out in this bill as it reforms the governance structure of the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority following advice from Dr Mal Washer, chair of the Organ and Tissue Authority board, to enable the board to have a more strategic and advisory focus. The current governance structure was established on 1 July 2017, establishing the board as an accountable authority of the Organ and Tissue Authority under the PGPA Act. This resulted in the OTA becoming the first non-corporate Commonwealth entity to have a governance board as the accountable authority. In July 2020 the Organ and Tissue Authority governance board undertook an internal review, as required under the board's charter, which indicated a clear consensus from board members for the need for increased time and capacity to contribute to the organisation's strategic direction and provide advice and support to the CEO. This bill will transition the role of the accountable authority from the board back to the CEO and replace the existing governance board with an advisory board under the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation Transplantation Authority Act 2008. These governance changes will revert to the approach first implemented by Labor in 2008 and align the authority with the governance structures of most other non-corporate Commonwealth entities.
I want to use my remaining time in the debate to encourage and support organ and tissue donation in our country, just as all of the speakers before me have done. Quite simply organ and tissue donations save and transform lives. Even just one donated organ or tissue sample can change the lives of more than 10 people. Our hospitals follow world's best practice, with specialist doctors and nurses supporting donation and transplantation in 95 hospitals across Australia. One in three Australians are registered donors, despite almost 70 per cent of Australians believing that registering for organ donation is important. However, organ donation is a rare event. Only two per cent of people who die in an Australian hospital meet the criteria to be an organ donor—that is, almost 1,300 lives. Since the national program for organ and tissue donation began in 2009, there have been over 14,000 organ transplant recipients from more than 5,000 donors.
Organ and tissue donation can come from a person living or deceased. Deceased individuals can donate their whole body, even if that individual has endured health challenges, such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease or cancer. Many body parts can be donated, such as lungs, hearts, eyes, kidneys, bladders or livers. The donations are a gift for extending a life. One great advantage of donating an organ is for scientific research and studies so that treatments, medicines and cures for disease can be made. Donating organs or an entire body can promote this offering and give a second chance to save lives throughout the world.
A person's health condition impacts on their daily life. Whether it's your career, hobbies or favourite activities, having poor health can impact on your life substantially. The greater we make access to transplants, the more lives can be improved and saved. Since the first successful organ transplants in the 1950s, after 200 years of transplant history, countless lives have been saved. Many people are able to live longer, healthier lives each year and millions of lives around the world continue to be changed every day.
However, the supply of organs remains significantly below the growing need for organ transplants. At the beginning of June 2021 there were almost 1,800 Australians on the organ donation waiting list at any one time, and if the number of organ donors does not increase dramatically in coming years it will be more and more difficult to keep up with demand. Just last year, over 1,200 Australians lives were saved through organ transplants due to the generosity of more than 450 deceased organ donors and their families. And yet there was a 12 per cent decrease in the number of people receiving a transplant and a 16 per cent decrease in the number of donors compared with 2019.
With almost 1,800 Australians currently waitlisted for a transplant and 12,000 additional people on dialysis—many of whom will need a kidney transplant—more attention needs to be directed to this area to ensure people can have a second chance at life. My husband and I have been organ donors since it became an option to make the decision clear on our drivers licenses. I have registered, as have all of my family, on the Australian Organ Donor Register. But, most importantly, my family have had that conversation with each other. My children and extended family know that it is my wish, should the opportunity arise, to see someone else live a full and happy life with their family by my donation. When my mother-in-law died in 2007 of liver cancer, she was able to give her corneas so that someone else could see. Someone in my extended family has benefited from organ donation. The donation changed their life and has given them the opportunity to see their daughter grow up and also to enjoy all of those family occasions that their health otherwise would not have allowed. There is no more significant gift. We should all spare a moment for those families over the years who, in their darkest time of grief, felt strong enough to save the life of another. You are such special people and we are so grateful for your gift of life.
Now, more than ever, we need to encourage organ and tissue donation, and ensure that the approach to this crucial area is done carefully and sensibly. I commend the bill to the House and I want to thank all those who are already registered as organ and tissue donors, and all those who, because of these speeches, will have the conversations today. And I thank those family members who have allowed their loved ones to be organ donors. Have the conversation today and make sure that you register on the Australian Organ Donation Register.
While I have time, I would also like to take up the words of the member for Oxley about the contribution in this House yesterday from the member for Macarthur. In my part of the world we have been suffering for the last eight weeks because of the outbreak of COVID in our area. I have people contacting my office every day about the fact that they can't work, that there are so many people dying and so many in my community who are suffering. We need vaccinations. We needed COVID not to escape from quarantine. It is really time for the government to step up and start to make a difference in our community.