Launceston parents sought for Senate inquiry into stillbirth education and research

STILLBIRTH: Launceston father Matt Little, who is fundraising for the Stillbirth Foundation of Australia, is encouraging people to make submissions to a Senate inquiry into stillborn babies. Picture: Scott Gelston
STILLBIRTH: Launceston father Matt Little, who is fundraising for the Stillbirth Foundation of Australia, is encouraging people to make submissions to a Senate inquiry into stillborn babies. Picture: Scott Gelston

Despite never having experienced it, the emotional weight of a stillborn child weighs heavily on Launceston father Matt Little.

This year, Mr Little made a charitable gesture on behalf of a friend, who had recently experienced stillbirth first-hand.

“I made the decision on January 1 that I would shave my head and my beard and then not touch it for 12 months,” he said.

The effort is fundraising for the Stillbirth Foundation of Australia, which helped his friend during his time of need.

Five months in, Mr Little says his shaved head and beard is a good conversation-starter.

“I have been fortunate that a lot of people have come up to me and shared their own stories,” he said.

Mr Little said he had never shaved his head before and after the big shave, even some of his friends didn’t recognise him.

“Some of them walked straight past me, they didn’t recognise me at all,” he said.

Mr Little is using his fundraising effort as a platform to raise awareness for a Senate inquiry into stillbirth research and education.

The inquiry is seeking submissions from Launceston residents. The closing date for submissions is June 29.

“I think anything that helps to create more awareness is a good thing,” Mr Little said.

He said stillbirth affected families “for the rest of their lives” and a lot of people were too devastated to talk about their experience.

“Any way to create more avenues for people to talk about it will be a good thing,” he said.

The experience is closely linked to depression and mental health, Mr Little said, so it was important it was funded effectively.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows there were 16 children stillborn in Launceston in 2016.

Stillbirth Foundation Australia chief executive Victoria Bowring said it was vitally important those who felt comfortable discussing their experience, made a submission to the inquiry.

“For too long, families have suffered stillbirth in silence, and this inquiry presents the first real opportunity for those families to have their voices heard,” Ms Bowring said.

“With six babies stillborn in Australia each day, it is long overdue for our political leaders to hear the impact it has on families.

“This, right now, is our best chance to see the federal government take action to properly fund research and education campaigns.

“There is nothing more powerful than simply telling your story and communicating the pain that is caused through stillbirth.”

The committee is to report on or before the second Senate sitting of 2019.

To find out more about the inquiry and how to contribute click here.