Local families have welcomed new laws that will improve unpaid leave entitlements for parents dealing with stillbirth, infant death or premature birth.
Attorney-General Christian Porter has introduced legislation that creates guaranteed entitlement of 12 months of unpaid leave for eligible people, the same amount that parents of healthy babies can take.
Mr Porter said The Fair Work Amendment (Improving Unpaid Parental Leave for Parents of Stillborn Babies and Other Measures) is an improvement to the current six weeks that parents who experience a stillbirth or infant death can get before they are required to return to work.
“Tragically, more than 2000 Australian families experience a stillbirth each year, while many more lose a child soon after birth from medical complications,” Mr Porter said.
“This change to unpaid leave entitlements will give these parents the time and space they need to grieve the loss of their baby, without having to worry about returning to work before they’re ready to do so.”
Glenmore Park teacher Erin Johnson started a bereavement charity ‘Ava Grace No Footprint Too Small’ in 2015 after her daughter was born and passed away at Nepean Hospital at 15 weeks.
“We knew Ava wasn’t compatible for life from nine weeks, but it was still devastating having to give birth and say goodbye, so I wanted to help others by donating handmade clothes, blankets and teddies to hospitals,” Ms Johnson said.
“I didn’t have my baby at home but sitting at my sewing machine was like therapy especially using her name because as bereaved parents we don’t want people to pretend like our babies don’t exist.”
Using different forms of leave to take five weeks off, Ms Johnson said it is vital for parents to not have the pressure of returning to work.
“Your stomach still changes, your milk comes in just as if you had a live baby but you are then dealing with grief and then need to sort out the legal side so don’t want to feel forced back to work,” she said.
“I think as a society we have come a long way in terms of mental health services so this is so important to support people at a vulnerable time, let them take time to seek counselling and sit with their grief so they will be better in the long term.”
A graduate of Western Sydney University, Emily covers community news and entertainment for the Western Weekender.