Ethnic Ancestry

How is this information protected and kept private?

The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood’s (Lifeblood) Privacy Policy sets out Lifeblood’s commitment to protecting the privacy of your personal information that we collect. For more information have a read of our privacy policy.


I prefer not to give you this information – do I need to?

No – you do not need to provide this information. You can select “prefer not to say” but we really love it if you did.


Why ethnic ancestry rather than country of birth or nationality?

Country of birth and nationality are different to ethnicity and do not give us the information we need. We need to know people’s ethnicity as this makes finding rare blood types much easier. For example, you, your parents and grandparents may have all been born in Australia, but your ethnic ancestry may be Persian. Or you and your parents and grandparents may have been born in Fiji, but your ethnic ancestry is actually Bengali Indian. 


Why is there no “Australian” option?

Just like “Canadian” or “American”, “Australian” is not an ethnicity. If you have Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ancestry, these two choices appear under the “Oceania / Pasifika” category.


Why only two ethnic ancestries?

While many of us have ancestors from lots of different countries, we want to know your 2 most significant ethnic ancestry groups. This does not need to be perfect – so don’t stress about it. Just pick 1 or 2 that you believe to be the best match for you. You can always change it later if you need. 


I am worried I will make a mistake – what if I am wrong?

This does not have to be perfect. Just tell us what you believe is the best match for you. It does not matter if it is wrong. You do not need to be 100% sure and you do not need to do your family tree or an online DNA test! We just want to know what you think is the best match for you. 


Can I change it later if I find out new information?

Yes. Just sign into the donor portal and update your details.


How will this information help you?

While everyone’s blood donation is tested to see if it is A, B, O (+/-), it is not possible right now to check every donation for the more detailed blood type (which we call “phenotype”). Until now, we used your country of birth when looking for a particular rare blood type. But this is not perfect and is makes it much more difficult to find the right match when we need it. By knowing your ethnic ancestry we will have a much better idea 

For example, previously patients have needed a rare type called “JKnull”. This is more likely going to be found in donors with Polynesian or Filipino ancestry. While we can test donors born in the Philippines or Samoa, without “ethnicity” information, we will miss the many donors who are born in Australia with those ethnic ancestries. A donor may be born in Australia, but their ancestry may be Tongan or Filipino – until now we wouldn’t have known. So if we knew a little bit more information about donors’ ancestry we will have a better idea of which donations to look for rare types – just like this JKnull one. 


Will you use this information for marketing purposes?

Yes. So right now, we may email you and ask you to consider making an appointment if your blood type is one that we are running low of. For example, is we are running low of O- blood we will email our donors who have this and ask them to come in. Just like that, if we are trying to find a rare blood type that is most often found in people of your ethnic ancestry, we may ask marketing to contact you and see if you can come in. 

Will you still ask for country of birth on the donor questionnaire? 

Yes. Country of birth information will still be collected in the donor questionnaire to identify donors at risk of certain illness – such as Chagas from South America. However, it is not the best information to help Lifeblood find rare blood types and that is why we will now ask for ethnic ancestry.


Do blood services in other countries ask for donors’ ethnicities?

Yes. Some blood services in other countries ask for information about people’s ethnic ancestry for the same reason that we do.  


Will all donors from the same ethnicity have the same blood type?

No. Some blood types are “more likely” to be among people from certain groups – but having that ethnicity does not mean that you will have that blood type. That is why they are often so rare and hard to find.


Will I be told if I have a rare blood type?

Yes - you will be notified if you have a rare blood type. Most likely you will not need to do anything with this information. However, you may be able to donate whole blood more often and we may contact you if there is an urgent need for your rare type. 

Still interested in knowing more?

Blood types and doughnuts: What are blood types and why do they matter?
https://www.donateblood.com.au/blog/research/blood-types-and-donuts

Plea for Polynesian, Maori and Filipino blood donors
https://www.sbs.com.au/news/red-cross-issues-plea-for-polynesian-maori-and-filipino-blood-donors

Rare blood donor found in Australia for Zainab
https://www.donateblood.com.au/media/news/rare-blood-donor-found-australia-zainab

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