NSW organ donors saved the lives of 392 people last year, a 16.4 per cent increase compared to 2022. 

This is the first increase the Australian Organ and Tissue Authority has recorded since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

NSW Organ and Tissue Donation Service state medical director Michael O’Leary said the COVID-19 pandemic had a massive impact on donation activity.

“We had over 20 per cent decline in the number of donors between 2018 and 2021,” Dr O’Leary said. 

“Last year, for the first time, it looked as though we were getting back to the same levels we were in prior to the pandemic.”

While four in five Australians support organ and tissue donation, only about one in three, or 36 per cent, are registered to be a donor with the Australian Organ Donor Register. 

Last year, 41 per cent of the NSW population had registered their intent to donate their organs, higher than the national rate of 36 per cent. 

The 2022 ‘Improving organ donor registration among young adults’ report found young Australians are least likely to have registered as organ and tissue donors or spoken to their family about wanting to be a donor.

“While if you register as a donor when you’re 18 one would hope that that’s not going to be something that anyone is going to have to call upon until you’re very much older, I think registering to be a donor and speaking to your family about being a donor may be very important just in change attitudes to donation,” Dr O’Leary says.

“It is especially important for people who are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds where donation is not generally part of the culture or where there is an impression that maybe religiously or culturally donation is not something that is supported in the community.

“But if the young people are coming along and saying to mum and dad ‘we’ve read about this,’ ‘this is important,’ ‘we’ve done this,’ that may be enough to shift the attitude.”

In Australia, families of potential donors are asked to give their consent to their family member becoming a donor regardless of their registered intent. 

Dr O’Leary says informing your family of your intention to donate is as important as registering with the Australian Organ Donor Register. 

“We know that eight out of 10 families will say yes [to their family member’s organ donation] if that person has registered,” Dr O’Leary said. 

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increasing trend in families overturning registered decisions.

“We used to say that nine out of 10 families will say yes to organ donation if their family member has registered their intent, but that number has dropped to eight in 10. 

“If there is no record of a person registering and there has been no previous discussion about donation, then only four out of 10 families will say yes to organ donation.

“It’s not just important to register, but it is really important to make your family aware that you have registered.”


In 2023, roughly 1,500 people died where organ donation could be considered, making up 1.7 per cent of the total 84,000 people who died in Australian hospitals.

With only a small number of potential donors, Dr O’Leary says it is important that everyone register their intent in order to increase our donation rate.

“Just making the effort to register and then making the effort to talk to your family is really important in changing attitudes about donation,” Dr O’Leary says.

Currently, 1,800 Australians are on the waitlist for an organ transplant. A further 14,000 people are on kidney dialysis, many of whom would benefit from a kidney transplant.