House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Private Members’ Business

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

7:31 pm

Photo of Sharman StoneSharman Stone (Murray, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Childcare) Share this | Hansard source

This sort of motion reminds us how human we as politicians, constituents and clerks are. The loss of a baby is so profound. None of us should ever forget the sorrow of others or our own personal loss. I commend Joanna Gash, the member for Gilmore, for putting this motion to us in the House and for bringing with her Nicole Ballinger, her partner and friends. Through Nicole we can perhaps do something more, and that is officially recognise Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, like they do in the United States and Canada.

The previous speaker, the member for Braddon, and the member for Gilmore have reminded us how often there is a miscarriage, stillbirth or death of a baby shortly after birth. There is an extraordinary number. In Australia perhaps 15 to 20 per cent of babies are miscarried, for example—and that is of known pregnancies. Of course, there are probably many more.

Just as Sid has said, many decades ago it was a case of: ‘Forget it. You have lost the baby, yes, but go home. Get on with your life. Perhaps you have other children to think about. Certainly, do not expect much more from the health sector, for example.’ There was no encouragement of photos, flowers, a service or the naming of the child. No doubt that led to more grief and a wondering if the mother and father—and perhaps the brothers, sisters and grandparents—were the only ones who really cared. This official Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day would give the whole community the sense that we all do care about those babies, those little boys and girls, who did not start life or whose life ended too soon.

I think of my own daughter, who had a series of miscarriages. We had the joy of thinking that the first ultrasound would give us the gender of the baby, but instead there was no heartbeat. It was very sad. But, as we have said, the family together can grieve, can think of that loss and can think about the potential joy of other children or about the joy of others who are already born.

It is very important, for example, in relation to paid parental leave policy, which the Labor Party has identified as commencing in 2011, that there is recognition of a stillborn baby and that the parents will be eligible for paid parental leave. I think that is a very important and humane thing to do. Certainly the coalition will echo that sentiment or that need because, of course, parents who have lost a baby deserve, should have and would need that parental leave just as if the baby had survived.

So I think this is a most important policy area. I want to say too that we should be thinking about families where babies have been lost in other countries where, clearly, too often the women have not had sufficient maternal health care, and where babies are more likely to be lost because of problems with nutrition or war or violence or extraordinary catastrophe. I understand there are 65,000 pregnancies and 7,000 babies due to be born in Haiti in the coming month or so, and those mothers and those babies will have an extraordinary time surviving.

We as a country should grieve the loss of our own babies and those of others. We should understand that in some sectors of the community there is more likely to be a loss than in others, and I am thinking of Indigenous women in our community. We have got to make sure that we do all we can to support families and mothers in those circumstances. There is no doubt that grieving together, identifying your loss and having the community understand your loss must help in that grieving process. I again commend Nicole and the Ballingers for promoting the official adoption of this day in Australia. I certainly commend this motion to the House. It is one humane thing that we can do in Australia when too often in this parliament we do not think of humanity but, instead, contest. This is about humanity and loving one another, and I certainly add my weight to commending this motion to the House.


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