House debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020


Pink Elephants Support Network

12:43 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to draw the attention of the chamber to the efforts of the Pink Elephants Support Network and commend their efforts as part of their Leave for Loss campaign. Despite one in four pregnancies ending in loss before 12 weeks, as recently as 2015 there was no specific support for early pregnancy loss or miscarriage in Australia. Pink Elephants was established in 2016 to address this gap and provide the latest resources, information and peer support for anyone impacted by early pregnancy loss. Pink Elephants helps those experiencing early pregnancy loss to feel cared for, protected and understood.

The statistics are eye-opening. One in four pregnancies ends in loss, which in Australia is 283 women a day or 103,000 couples a year, with the vast majority of pregnancy losses occurring within the first 12 weeks. Yet the emotional impact of early pregnancy loss is little understood and not well enough supported. I spoke in my maiden speech about the fertility journey my wife and I have endured. It included early pregnancy loss and, as a result, like so many others I know first-hand the emotional effect this has on couples. Like so many women, my wife just powered through the shock of early pregnancy loss because we felt it was best to simply move on and distract ourselves. In retrospect, I wish we had taken more time to process our grief properly and as a family. This would be my advice to other couples who find themselves in similar circumstances.

I am passionate about supporting families in my electorate of Ryan and across Australia, and this issue impacts so many of them. Miscarriage is a traumatic experience for many women and their partners, who feel real grief at the loss of the baby. Often these couples are left to deal with this grief alone, as 98 per cent of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks, before many women and their partners have told families, friends or employers. Recent research found that 74 per cent of women who suffered a miscarriage reported feeling unsupported, and there is evidence that a shocking one in six women who experience miscarriage will go on to experience long-term post-traumatic stress following this event.

To address this feeling of isolation and the temptation not to take the time to process the grief that they need, Pink Elephants have established their Leave for Loss campaign. The campaign seeks to ensure that Fair Work Australia makes two days of bereavement leave, currently available for those experiencing other forms of loss, available to women who suffer miscarriage and their partners. I personally am supportive of the extension of bereavement leave to this important category. In the case of early pregnancy loss, I can attest personally that you are indeed grieving that loss very deeply. Having that grief recognised, as post-12-week stillbirth is and as other forms of grief and loss are, would legitimise the pain that many of these couples are feeling. It would be a strong signal to those couples of the importance of taking the time to process and talk about their grief.

A lot of companies are already doing the right thing and offering bereavement leave to employees who experience early pregnancy loss, but as early pregnancy loss most often occurs before someone has told their family and friends, let alone their employer, having access to leave as a right, rather than having to negotiate it, would remove some of the barriers present in approaching your employer after the loss. In addition, many miscarriages occur in conjunction with fertility treatment. Couples may likely have already accessed significant leave to undertake these treatments and may feel uncomfortable about asking their employers for further leave that they aren't entitled to as a right.

The New Zealand parliament recently passed legislation which extended their equivalent of bereavement leave to include miscarriage, which they define as the end of pregnancy in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. I have already spoken personally to the Attorney-General, Christian Porter, about the Leave for Loss campaign and this issue, and I want to thank him for the positive and open-minded way he has offered to engage with me and others on this issue. Thank you to Sarah Jane, CEO of Pink Elephants, and board member Katrina for their engagement and effort so far on the Leave for Loss campaign. I look forward to working with them to support local families facing the difficult issue of early pregnancy loss, and I thank very much all of the staff, volunteers and supporters of the Pink Elephant support network for the work that they are doing to support Australian families.

Question agreed to.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 12:48