Money to assist blood cancer already exists – just allocate it Minister: Katter

Feb 8, 2023

Money to assist blood cancer already exists – just allocate it Minister: Katter

Feb 8, 2023

THOUSANDS of lives could potentially be saved each year if the Federal Health Minister agrees to allocate revenue already collected by the Commonwealth, to a recruitment campaign encouraging Australians to join the bone marrow donor pool, which could help cure illnesses such as blood cancers.

The Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) has an agreement with the Federal Government that revenue collected from international exports of cord blood are to be held in an account.

Information provided to Mr Katter’s office confirmed that cord blood export revenue funds must be used as directed by the Commonwealth with the agreement of the States and Territories.

After the national bone marrow register shrunk significantly over the past decade, Federal MP Bob Katter has backed the ABMDR’s calls to allocate that revenue – which was reported to be $12.8m as at June 30, 2022 – to a campaign that would recruit much-needed donors.

On Tuesday, Mr Katter asked Health Minister Mark Butler a question without notice, requesting action on the revenue collected, while highlighting the success of a private recruitment campaign.

He also called for the introduction of the at-home cheek swab postal kits, which would allow prospective donors to submit their DNA easily, simply and quickly for analysis and inclusion on the registry for potential matches.

“Minister, are you aware that the bone marrow register has shrunk?

“Yet recently a $300,000 private funding (campaign) tripled registrations.

“Overseas donor tissue ‘cheek swab’ programs introduced here, with publicity – (would lead to) university colleges, military, public service effectively donating.

“Minister, couldn’t we save 1,000 lives?

In his response, Mr Butler acknowledged that it was an “area of healthcare that had moved too slowly in this country.”

“It is clear to me that our bone marrow donation system in Australia is too small, there aren’t enough people on the registry, it’s too slow and it’s not kept up with international standards on things like cheek swabs and age limits on donors,” Mr Butler said.

“We know cheek swabs are an effective and economical way of bringing people to the registry… this isn’t a system that’s been introduced in Australia.

“So, I’m writing right now to the chair of health ministers to seek their agreement to cut through some of this jurisdictional bureaucratic red tape to do everything we can to clear the way, that is currently denying patients in Australia the best chance to access to this life-saving technology.”

Mr Katter’s pleas come as his nephew and father of two, Liam O’Brien, 40, was diagnosed with leukemia just six months ago.

Like 70 per cent of people with blood cancer and related conditions, Mr O’Brien is relying on the stem cell register to find a suitable match.

Mr O’Brien’s wife Josephine launched The Lifesaving List social media campaign and said young blood donors aged 18-35 years were being urged to take an extra two-minute step at the blood bank and add their name to the stem cell register. The Lifesaving List has increased stem cell donations by 400 per cent in just over one month.

She said she was shocked to find out just how many Australians were in a similar situation to Liam, and were unable to find a match in Australia.

“Since starting this campaign, we’ve heard from families and individuals whose time is quickly running out, who’ve been able to find a match overseas, but aren’t able to go through with the transplant due to their condition worsening, it’s truly devastating,” Ms O’Brien said.

“The government literally has the power to save lives and create real change effective immediately.

“Such a small change could make a significant difference to these families. We hope the Health Minister can reflect on the question posed today and that change is able to be implemented as quickly as possible. It could save Liam’s life and so many others,” she said.



There are currently 135,000 Australians living with blood cancer or a related blood disorder and over 5,950 lose their lives each year. The number of Australian donors has shrunk significantly over the last decade, and donation organisations estimate we will need an additional 110,000 names to keep up with the current demand.

About 80 percent of Australians living with blood cancer rely on overseas donors which can be costly and logistically difficult for patients.

How to join the Life-saving List:
1. Book to give blood via or call 13 14 95.
2. Select or mention Life Saving List when booking.
3. Ask to be added to the Stem Cell Register at your appointment.

What if I’m a match?
It’s a simple, non-invasive procedure similar to giving blood that only takes a few hours and could save a life like Liam’s.

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