SENATOR THE HON KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
TUESDAY, 15 OCTOBER 2019
SUBJECTS: International pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day; Paid Parental Leave for parents of stillborn children; Safer Baby Bundle.
WALEED ALY, HOST: Labor Senator Kristina Keneally joins us now. Senator, I know this issue is personal for you so you’ve thought a lot about it. What sort of difference do you think these changes could make in practice?
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE: Well Waleed thank you for having me on tonight. The thing is parents who give birth to stillborn babies are parents and this is paid parental leave; it’s not actually paid baby leave. It is there to look after parents and these parents, as said, they have to give birth. Mothers give birth. They have to recover physically, they have to recover emotionally and they have to parent their stillborn baby and that can often include things like burials, cremations funerals, autopsies, counselling. It’s an extraordinary, profound grief. It is an awful job of parenting and if they don't have that paid parental leave they really do struggle in overcoming this tragedy.
CARRIE BICKMORE, HOST: So have you heard many cases where women have had their leave cancelled and they have been forced back to work? Is this a common problem?
KENEALLY: In the Senate inquiry last year into stillbirth we heard tragic stories. One mother had to go back after just 11 days after giving birth to her stillborn baby. Others talked about going to claim their paid parental leave and being told by their manager that they weren't covered because their baby hadn't lived and the thing is a lot of companies, when you draw it to their attention, will go, ""Oh my goodness we didn't realise."" And they will quickly move to fix it. What my plea is on this international day of remembrance is to ask the Australian private sector to look at their paid parental leave policies and make sure that they cover parents of stillborn babies.
MONTY DIMOND, HOST: Senator I absolutely agree that we need to support grieving parents, but should we be looking at something a bit differently like the bereavement leave like you'd get if you lost say a one-year-old?
KENEALLY: There is a bereavement leave and you are correct. I suppose, the difference here is that mothers have given birth just as a mother gives birth to a live baby, she gives birth to a stillborn baby and often the births of stillborn babies are more difficult. They can be more medically difficult and so the mother has a physical requirement as well as the emotional one.
TOMMY LITTLE, HOST: The perinatal mortality rate hasn’t improved over the last 20 years. I was absolutely astounded to read that. What's going wrong?
KENEALLY: Quite frankly, we haven't treated stillbirth as a health problem. We have treated it as a tragedy. We don't do basic things in Australia in terms of helping pregnant women and their midwives in understanding the risks and how to prevent it. There are some things that can be done and today the good news is the Australia launched the Safer Baby Bundle and it aims to prevent still birth by 20 per cent. Just as an example, we are now encouraging mothers who are pregnant to fall asleep on their side and we're also encouraging them to get to know their baby's movements because if a baby's movements change, it can be a sign that there’s distress and something going wrong and if that happens they should go and see their doctor as soon as possible.
WALEED ALY, HOST: Alright Senator. Thank you very much for raising it but also for speaking to us tonight.