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Wednesday, 23 May 2007
Page: 141


Mr BYRNE (7:29 PM) —I rise to speak on an incredibly sensitive and moving subject that relates to the struggle of a young mother and her quest to have her baby daughter recognised. In raising this matter tonight I make no criticisms of governments of any persuasion, but I seek through my contribution to give Tammie Robertson and her parents, Peter and Raena McKill, a voice, because they need a voice to share with the Australian community the suffering and grief they feel about the loss of Tammie’s daughter and of Peter and Raena McKill’s granddaughter. These are good people. I know Peter and Raena McKill very well. They are residents of Cranbourne. These are stoic people. They are strong people. They are resilient people. They are people who do not normally come to my office seeking assistance. They came to my office under the most dire set of circumstances, and tonight I will relate this very dire set of circumstances to this House.

As I said, I raise this issue because the mother of April Marie Robertson has asked me to raise it in the House. Some of the matters that I am about to relate could be quite sensitive and some are incredibly moving, but I believe that Tammie does need to have a voice. I believe that this is the place to raise her concerns and I do so on that basis. I will start by reading some excerpts from Tammie’s letter to me pertaining to her child. It says:

I am writing this to you to explain what it is like to lose a child.

I am 28yrs of age very healthy, married, 2 Daughters Abbey Rose 6.5yrs, April Marie (DEC). Yes DEAD.

She talks about the story of April Marie:

We had been trying to fall pregnant for 1 and a half years.

The she learned to her great joy that she was pregnant. On 17 April 2007, Tammie Robertson went for her 19-week ultrasound. She was told that her baby was a little girl, because they can detect the sex of a baby at 18 weeks, but that she was not going to survive outside the womb.

Tammie felt the baby because it was alive and kicking very hard. The problem for Tammie was that it would become a life-threatening situation for her if the pregnancy continued and there was also the fact that April Marie had an incurable disease: anencephaly. This meant that the baby would be born dead. Because of the threat that the baby posed to her life, Tammie was induced at about 19½ weeks, which is just days off the 20-week period. The baby was born after a 14-hour labour. Tammie held the baby in her arms and apologised to her for not keeping her safe. The baby was taken away and Tammie saw her again the next day at the funeral parlour. The funeral arrangements were made for the full burial of April Marie and she was baptised by the Catholic Church.

Now all Tammie has is the memory of her pain, and the crushing pain she and her family are still suffering. What really vexes Tammie is that she does not have a birth certificate because the baby did not reach 20 weeks. Under the law across all states, the baby has to be 20 weeks old and, in some states, 400 grams before the family can be issued a birth certificate. In fact, she does not even have a death certificate. So this poor woman, who has brought this baby into the world just days short of 20 weeks, has not been given the recognition that she needs. This is a person who is going through a grieving process that I could not possibly imagine going through. I do not want to imagine it; the pain would be too great. What she is asking from us as a federal parliament that oversees the state parliaments to some extent—and there is a body that can recognise that, which I think is the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General—is to get some uniform law where, for special circumstances like Tammie’s, the baby can be recognised. I ask this House and I ask the state governments in a spirit of compassion, particularly for Tammie, to recognise the memory of April Marie Robertson, who was born and died on 19 April 2007.