politics

"We could have saved them": The heartbreaking report into stillbirth in Australia.

This article deals with an account of stillbirth that could be triggering for some readers.

There were emotional scenes in the Senate yesterday as Labor senator Kristina Keneally read the names of every stillborn baby born to parents who gave evidence to a report into stillbirth in Australia.

This included the name of her own daughter, Caroline.

Keneally and Liberal senator Jim Molan both held back tears as they discussed how stillbirth had affected their families.

Following an eight-month investigation, the landmark report offered a heartbreaking look at stillbirth in Australia, finding that unlike comparable countries the stillbirth rate has not changed in more than 20 years.

Keneally said working on the report had made her “incredible angry” at times.

“My anger came from frustration, because there are simple steps to take to prevent stillbirth,” she told the Senate.

“The anger I felt wasn’t directed at anything other than just grief, that babies had died in this country when we could have saved them.

“And why didn’t we? It was because for so long we have been understandably hesitant to speak about stillbirth. It’s a particular sadness, a singular grief; one so hard to fathom that I can understand that, collectively, as a country we have considered stillbirth too sad to talk about as a public health problem.”

She thanked each of the parents who made submission and gave public evidence before reading out the names of their children.

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“[They] are lost to us, but this report is part of their legacy. Thank you. So much sadness, but today we begin to hope that things will change.”

The report found that stillbirth affected more than 2000 Australian families every year, and the rate among Aboriginal mothers was twice as high.

The committee received 268 submissions and held six public hearings across the country which told horrific stories of women made redundant from their jobs while recovering from the trauma of a stillborn child and others told they were not entitled to paid parental leave because their baby had died.

Staff at the Northern Territory’s Katherine Hospital told the committee of six stillborn babies left unclaimed at the hospital’s morgue – two of which had been there since 2013.

Among the inquiry recommendations were allocated money for further research, standardised data collection, development of national best practice guidelines to provide appropriate support and care for bereaved families and a review of the Fair Work Act to ensure provisions for stillbirth and miscarriage are consistent and paid parental leave entitlements are unambiguous.

It also recommended the government develop a National Stillbirth Action Plan aimed at reducing the rate of stillbirth in Australia by 20 per cent over the next three years.

If this article has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the SANDS Australia 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637.

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Join the community of women, men and families who have lost a child in our private Facebook group.

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