Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4847

Mrs GASH (Gilmore) (21:26): I second the motion. I welcome the opportunity to respond to this motion by the member for Chisholm and support the sentiment driving it.

In the week after the budget I had occasion to interview a young mother who came to me with her 14-month-old daughter who was severely afflicted with shaken baby syndrome. The condition was as a result of abuse by the father of the baby, with whom the mother was formerly living in a de facto relationship. Both the mother and the grandmother, who came with her, wanted me to help them get an awareness program running, which I will most certainly assist with. The point I am making is that the anguish in the mothers' eyes and the deep emotion of maternal instincts driving both mothers was unmistaken.

Some years ago, I put a motion to the House seeking the establishment of a national day to commemorate infant loss at birth or stillbirth. That day has been recognised officially by the New South Wales government and other administrations here in Australia and overseas, but not by our federal government, which is a shame. On that occasion, the advocate who approached me, Nicole Ballinger, was ardent in her compassion. I still think 15 October needs to be adopted nationally, and I urge the government to reconsider doing so.

The death of a young child is devastating to the family, especially the mother. Many never get over the event, and many seek meaning as to why their infant child was taken away from them. They want emotional closure and they want to honour the memory of the child.

It is one thing to lose a child through natural means but quite another to lose a child through violence, abuse or neglect. Many parents blame themselves, seeing themselves as failures for not protecting their child. This is quite unjust and can impose severe but unnecessary burdens for them to carry throughout their lives. It is quite understandable that the two mothers I am talking about are driven by the need to see that the despair is not visited on others.

There is no doubt that parents afflicted by the burden of the unexpected death of an infant child undergo a change to their personality. Many never get over it, such is the depth of their grief. And of course there are myriads of parents whose suffering lies somewhere in between.

I know the government has a role to play in assisting parents suffering from this post traumatic stress by introducing policies enunciated in the context of this motion. I applaud the member for Chisholm on her initiative. This is a matter that traverses all politics. It is an issue absolutely out of humanity and compassion, and we elected to this parliament are best placed to make good things happen.

This motion speaks particularly to the issue of 'stillbirths' and the statutory definition of 'person' and 'death', which vary from one jurisdiction to another. Under current laws, state coroners do not have the necessary authority to investigate such deaths. This authority must be given them, from both moral and practical perspectives.

There needs to be a uniformity of approach across the jurisdictional landscape. It is the sensible thing to do and obviously the need to do so has been clearly demonstrated. This motion seeks to adopt such policies. I would much rather approach this from the perspective of developing policies that fit the bill rather than adopting those that now exist unconditionally. After all, each jurisdiction developed a policy in keeping with its own needs and experiences. We need to be certain that whatever policy is adopted has been thoroughly assessed as appropriate to the needs and circumstances, as well as the expectations, of a 21st-century society. A national infant loss remembrance day would be one such policy.

Debate interrupted.