National Blood Donor Week
Senator MOORE (Queensland) (10.10 pm)-As an ex union official, I will be speaking this evening about National Blood Donor Week. This week, from 10 to 16 September, is National Blood Donor Week-and it was launched today at Parliament House. A number of politicians attended the lunch. The major feature was the role of youth in raising awareness in our community about the importance of blood donation. They showed what they were doing as young people to encourage more young people to become life-long donors and help other people in their communities. At the launch we had the opportunity to hear the young people's stories and to see a new video which is, hopefully, going to be circulated to all schools in Australia. The video gets across the quite simple message that giving blood is something that is worthwhile and it does not hurt too much. That was focused on a lot, because there are still many people in the community who are afraid of giving blood. One in three Australians will probably need to have access to a blood donation in their life but only one in 30 people donate blood. So it is a straightforward mathematical exercise. The stories that were shared today by the young blood ambassadors, the Youth Ambassadors, from all states and territories will be part of the national program. Naturally, being from Queensland, I want to talk about the Queensland ambassador. Christopher Nobile, from Ignatious Park College, Townsville-a school I know quite well-is the Queensland blood ambassador. He came down from Townsville with his mum Karen for the launch. Christopher's story is, I think, particularly valuable. He is a senior student at Ignatious Park College, which already has a well-established program of blood donations over many years. Iggy Park has always celebrated this aspect of community service. Christopher asked me to particularly mention one of his teachers. I always think that is a particularly brave thing to do. He asked me to mention Mr Dennis McCloskey, who has been supporting the program at Ignatius Park.
At this moment at Iggy Park 140 donors donate blood every month when the mobile van comes to the school. Students, teachers and workers at the college give up their time and take part in what I think is a wonderful community service. Christopher's own story has been enhanced one step further. Not only is he a regular donor and encourages other students at his school and other schools in the region to take part in this process but he also had the opportunity, through Ignatius Park College, to visit South Africa earlier this year. He shared his story with us and told us that meeting so many people in Africa who were suffering from blood diseases-particularly HIV and AIDS related illnesses-gave him an even greater insight and encouraged him to come back to Australia and work with other young people and families. One of the major successes of the program has been that Christopher's mum Karen has now become a donor. She told us at the lunch that her son's experience gave her the impetus to decide to become a blood donor-so, in fact, the message is already getting across.
After this week, Christopher and the other ambassadors-who came from all states and territories-are going to visit schools and talk with young people about what it means to give blood. To coincide with National Blood Donor Week, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service released research findings on the feelings of the 16- to 24-age group about giving blood. The research talked about what stimulates the interest and also what the fears are. We talked today about a fear that I think a lot of us could understand-the fear of having a needle. The thought of having a needle is something that does scare people. The Youth Ambassador from South Australia, Sam Miles, talked about his own experience. You would understand, Mr President, being from South Australia. Mr Miles is quoted in the publicity as saying:
The thought of the needle did freak me out at first, but when I made my first donation I realised it didn't hurt at all! And best of all I was able to help save up to three lives.
It is a very straightforward message and the blood bank is now going to use that message: part of their program is going to be, 'It doesn't freak you out'. When we were talking today at the lunch, Nicola Roxon, who is the shadow minister for health from the Labor Party, talked about whether there was actually a sliding scale-whether it went from being a little bit inconvenienced, to being a little frayed, to being actually freaked out by the whole concept.
We can talk about these issues, but I think it is particularly valuable when you have the young ambassadors themselves talking to their peers. It is particularly effective when they can say what it was like from their own experience. Each of the young people today was able to explain what stimulated them to make the first decision to give blood, and there was a range of experiences. Some of the kids came from families where there had been illness and they had actually seen the immediate need for blood donation. Some were caught up in talking about the issue and part of the decision was to become part of a community service, because the key aspect of giving blood is that, by giving blood, you are helping others. That is the major message. This year we have been thinking about the need for more blood donation. There has been significant publicity about the urgent need for more donors in our community. Earlier this year, the blood bank launched the 4 Seasons program, where they were grabbing individual stories about people who were the beneficiaries of blood and about what it meant to their lives to be able to receive a blood donation. Today at the lunch we met Marnie, who is the face of the 4 Seasons program at this time. She is a young 13-year-old girl who received red blood cells and platelets because she had a tumour in her left ankle. Her own experience is so confronting-she spent many months in hospital; she has had her limb amputated and is rebuilding her life. We found out today that she wants to be an anthropologist in the future, which is really exciting and a lot of hard work. She is saying that the experience of other people who are choosing to become regular blood donors has made an immediate difference to her life and has allowed her to rebuild and get through significant illhealth, and now she has a future. And she has chosen to be a part of the 4 Seasons program and give her face to it as part of the online experience for blood donation promotion.
We have opportunity through issues like the awareness week where people can share stores. There are celebrations in most states this week celebrating significant achievements of blood donation. There was one gentleman today at the lunch who had given blood over 300 times. I think for most of us that is a number that we could only sit back and be amazed by. Nonetheless, the officials from the blood bank can trace the immediate impact of each of those blood donations, so when you give up about an hour of your time on a regular basis, that can translate immediately to people having greater hope and making life-saving gains. The blood bank has been using this promotional technique and personalising the experience so that it is not just something you can put aside and think about later; it is something that can make a difference today. I think that there is a challenge for all of us.
Tony Abbott, today, was able to announce that the government has given money to designate 2009 as the Year of the Blood Donor and the government will now provide $2 million to the Australian Red Cross to support this initiative. 2009 marks the 80th anniversary of the provision of blood transfusion and collection services in Australia. It is the aim of celebrating 2009 as the Year of the Blood Donor to encourage more people to become donors. We know and it is a well-known fact, I think, amongst most people in the community, that more than half of the population will need blood or some blood product at some point in their lifetime. What we can do, and something also that we know, is that many of us are able to provide blood donation very easily. There are many people who, for various reasons, cannot, but that does not mean they cannot support the service. The Red Cross is seeking volunteers at all levels. They want the community to be involved. On behalf of Christopher, who is the Queensland young ambassador, we have a chance to listen to his message and, through 2007, we can become blood donors so that by 2009, when we have the national year, I think that we will be able to reach the targets that we have to reach to make sure that people like Marnie can have an opportunity to have a healthy future.