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13 Aug 2019

The Federal Government recently accepted the recommendations made by the Senate Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education Report, engendering gratitude in the Senate on its last sitting day of the recent session.

Labor Senator and Committee member Kristina Keneally thanked the Government for responding to the report and agreeing to its recommendations.

“This was a significant report. For the first time in Australian history we have a national set of recommendations to address the tragedy of stillbirth in this country,” Senator Keneally said.

“Stillbirth is a tragedy that affects six Australian families a day; 2,200 babies a year are lost to stillbirth. In the last 20 years, the rate of stillbirth has not changed in this country. I use the 20-year figure because that's as long as we have been keeping accurate — or at least somewhat accurate — data.

“In those 20 years, some 44,000 babies, who were wanted and loved by their parents, were lost to us. Quite tragically, they were lost to us in large part — a large number of them — because we as a country, collectively, had not spoken about the issue of stillbirth, had not sought to understand what causes stillbirth and were not providing parents and clinicians with the advice that would help prevent stillbirth. The rate of stillbirth in this country is higher than the road toll. It is the No. 1 killer of babies under the age of one.

“This inquiry allowed parents who have experienced stillbirth to speak. And speaking is important, because this is an issue where remaining silent has been of great detriment to the Australian community and to Australian families. Remaining silent has meant we don't talk about it. It's meant we don't address it. It's meant that stillbirth has been a tragedy people have suffered in silence. We viewed it as a private tragedy, not a public health problem. And it is a public health problem.”

In responding to the Committee’s report in July, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Government had agreed to, or agreed in principle to all the recommendations.

 The Government’s response includes:

  • developing a National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan in collaboration with state and territory governments and in consultation with bereaved parents, health professionals, researchers, advocacy groups and other stakeholders. The recommendations in the Senate Committee’s Report will be central to informing the development of the Plan;
  • investing in stillbirth research;
  • developing best practice, culturally appropriate resources for health professionals and parents and families, including more intensive support options for bereaved parents and families following stillbirth; and
  • working with States and Territories to make improvements in several key areas including improving national perinatal mortality data collections, improving access to publicly-funded stillbirth autopsies, building the perinatal pathology workforce, developing more culturally and linguistically appropriate models of care, bereavement support and protocols for public hospitals and community health services.

“We thank the individuals and organisations that have contributed to the report, especially those people who have shared their personal stories,” Mr Hunt said.

“In response to the report, the Government is investing $52.4 million in perinatal services and support. This will help prevent, reduce and assist the more than 2,000 families affected by stillbirth each year.”

 

 


Published: 13 Aug 2019