The peak body representing Australia's ethnic communities has welcomed a new push by the federal government to boost organ donation rates after an independent review found the need for significant reform.
Efforts are being made to reach out to migrant communities to increase organ donation, but barriers still exist.
Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia chairman Joe Caputo said while there was a sense of hesitancy on the issue, a greater understanding would help encourage migrants to become donors.
Mr Caputo said organ donation was not a common practice in many countries and this could lead to people of migrant communities being hesitant about registering.
“[When it comes to] our own mortality, we don’t often think about it,” he said.
“We are always thinking about living and it’s a good reminder that we are all mortals and we could do a lot of good by donating our organs when we go.”
A donor himself, Mr Caputo said he encouraged everyone to consider the benefits registering as an organ donor had for their own communities.
In an effort to boost nation-wide organ donation rate, the process of registering as a donor will soon become straightforward, with a one-step online registration process announced on Tuesday.
Currently, would-be donors need to register online, wait for a form to arrive in the mail, fill it out, and return it.
From May, under the new system, they will be able to register online in less than 10 minutes.
The federal government announced the measure as it outlined the findings of a year long independent review into why Australia’s organ donation rates remain low compared to countries globally.
Australia ranks 22nd in the world on organ donation transplantation.
Despite a national reform program to increase awareness and boost rates in 2009, the overall number of registered donors is not enough to keep up with the demand.
A 2015 review by Ernst and Young made 24 recommendations to improve the promotion of organ donation, including greater oversight of Organ and Tissue Authority (OTA).
Transparency, accountability and governance of OTA’s work were identified as problems in the review.
As of December 31, 2015, 1.8 million Australians, about seven percent, were registered as organ donors, with a further 4.3 million signalling their intent but lacking the required paperwork.
Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash, who is responsible for organ donation, said seven percent of the population was not enough.
“Almost all Australians would like to be able to receive a donated organ if it was needed to save their life, yet the vast majority of Australians are not registered as organ donors,” she said in a statement.
While we worship our sporting stars and rightfully honour our war heroes with memorials bearing their names, organ donors deserved the same respect, Ms Nash said.
“Organ donors are real heroes who save lives,” she said.
“Let’s admire our organ donor heroes with the same passion we admire our stars in sport or music.”
Organ Tissue Authority national medical director, Helen Opdam, is working to ensure all Australians have the opportunity to register their willingness to donate their organs and tissues after death.
She said some segments of the community, particularly those from multicultural backgrounds, had less access to information and were often uncertain about how to register.
Over the past two years the Organ Tissue Authority has been meeting with community leaders of all faiths to create an understanding about the importance of having a large number of donors.
“All religions support organ and tissue donation as an act of charity and good will and that includes the major faith groups such as Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism,” Dr Opdam said.
She said discussing organ donation was often a challenge because it was related to death.
There are 1,600 Australians on the waiting list for an organ at any given time and 50 Australians die each year waiting for an organ.
- with AAP