Key messages

  • The Organ and Tissue Authority aims to improve transplant outcomes across Australia.
  • In Victoria various organisations work with specialised health professionals and hospitals to implement the reform agenda.
  • Protocols have been developed to ensure fair transplant criteria.
  • Find out more about organ and tissue donation at the Better Health Channel.
  • To register as a donor visit the Australian Organ Donor Register.
  • Organ and tissue donation is regulated by the Human Tissue Act 1982

The national Organ and Tissue Authority works alongside all Australian states and territories to improve organ and tissue donation and organ transplant outcomes (the reform agenda).

In Victoria a number of organisations - including the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood and DonateLife Victoria - work alongside specialised health professionals and hospitals to implement the reform agenda. Protocols have also been developed to ensure equitable and transparent transplant criteria.

The Organ and Tissue Authority

In 2009 the Commonwealth Government created the Organ and Tissue Authority to develop, implement and monitor national programs to increase the rate of organ and tissue donation across Australia. The authority was allocated $151 million over an initial four-year period to develop and implement a national reform program. This funding has enabled:

  • the employment of DonateLife Network health professionals in health services and donation agencies.     
  • organ donation activities at hospitals
  • organisations to provide essential support services to health services.

Since the implementation of the reform program in 2009 the national and Victorian donation rates have increased significantly.

  • The Australian donation rate per million population increased from 11.4 in 2009 to 21.6 in 2019.
  • The Victorian donation rate per million population increased from 12.1 in 2009 to 24.6 in 2019.

This indicated that the Victorian donation rate is well above the national average.

Following the initial success of the national reform program, the Australian Government will continue to fund organ donation and transplantation services.

Paired Kidney Exchange program

The Australian and New Zealand Paired Kidney Exchange program (ANZKX) is part of the Organ and Tissue Authority’s efforts to increase the number of living kidney donors. The ANZKX program uses the computerised national Organ Match system to find compatible donors among other registered pairs who might be suitable. This can enable two or more simultaneous living donor transplants to occur. The ANZKX program is coordinated from Victoria by the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Tissue donation

The national reform agenda also includes strategies to support the donation of tissues from committed organ donors.

Victorian implementation of the national reform agenda

Victorian implementation of the federal scheme involves a multidisciplinary approach with the Department of Health working alongside specialist programs and health professionals, the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, DonateLife Victoria and hospitals.

Department of Health

The department plays a major direct and indirect funding support role in every phase of the process of organ donation to transplantation. It provides:

  • funding for organ retrieval, organ perfusion and transplantation     
  • additional funds to health services to employ organ donation specialists
  • contributions to the nationally funded centres for paediatric transplant patients
  • funding for tissue typing costs.

Organ donation specialist doctors and nurses

Public hospitals participate in organ and tissue donation and transplantation programs by employing experienced doctors and nurses whose specialised role is to facilitate organ and tissue donation opportunities at both public and private health services.

Victorian hospitals

In Victoria, medical and nursing organ and tissue donation specialists are based in a number of metropolitan and regional health services. The network of Victorian hospitals and staff dedicated to donation activities ensure that a state wide service is provided for all Victorians. The authority reimburses these hospitals for carrying out organ donation activities. Hospital costs include pathology and imaging, staff time in the emergency department and intensive care unit, and the costs of transferring a potential donor from a regional hospital to a larger, more specialised hospital.

There are six primary Victorian hospitals that provide the transplantation services: The Alfred Hospital, Austin Health, Melbourne Health, Monash Medical Centre, Royal Children's Hospital and St Vincent’s Health.

DonateLife Victoria

DonateLife Victoria is the organ donation agency for Victoria. DonateLife Victoria’s team of health professionals provides a range of support services to participating health services and hospital-based organ donation specialists. The team coordinates donation services, encourages best practice, and helps raise community awareness and understanding about donation for transplantation.

DonateLife Tasmania

DonateLife Victoria trains and supports DonateLife Tasmania’s organ donation specialist nursing coordinators. Organ donation and transplantation specialists from Victoria work with Tasmanian doctors, nurses and hospitals to facilitate donation and transplantation activities.

Australian Red Cross Lifeblood (Lifeblood)

The department funds Lifeblood to coordinate Victorian organ donation activities. Lifeblood currently provides support to DonateLife Victoria and DonateLife Tasmania, and tissue typing services through the Victorian Transplantation and Immunogenetics Service.

Lions Eye Donation Service

The Lions Eye Donation Service (LEDS) operates as part of the Department of Ophthalmology of Melbourne University at the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital. LEDS staff members collect and distribute human eye tissue for vision restoration, research and education.

Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria

The Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria (DTBV) is a multi-tissue bank, processing skin, bone, cartilage, tendons, connective tissue and heart valves for transplantation. The DTBV provides surgeons with safe and effective tissue grafts for orthopaedic, cardiothoracic, reconstructive surgery and burn care. The microbiology laboratory is licensed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to carry out testing on cadaveric tissues for transplantation.

DTBV, LEDS and DonateLife Victoria are working collaboratively to increase tissue donation from hospital sources.

National protocols for organ recipient priority

The Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand has developed equitable and transparent national criteria and protocols for selecting recipients for donated organs. Organs from deceased donors are allocated to transplant recipients in a process that takes no account of race, religion, gender, social status, disability or age, unless age is relevant to the organ-matching criteria.

The Human Tissue Act 1982 

The Human Tissue Act 1982 (the Act) regulates organ donation following death. The Act includes a process to authorise the removal of tissue (including organs) from a deceased person for the purpose of transplantation and for use for other therapeutic, medical or scientific purposes. The Act was amended in December 2020 to enable a process for authorising the carrying out of ante-mortem (prior to death) procedures to support the viability of organs for transplantation.

Find out more about the Act amendment in the Department of Health Circular.

More information about the Human Tissue Act 1982 can be found on our Human Tissue Act page or on the Victorian parliament website.