Speech by Senator the Hon Ursula Stephens

Bonnie Babes Foundation Garden Party

Location: Kirribilli House, Sydney

****Check against delivery****

Firstly, I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where we meet – the Cammeraigal people.

And thank you for inviting me to attend this wonderful event in the stunning surrounds of Kirribilli House. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

My role here this evening is to welcome you to Kirribilli House on behalf of the Prime Minister.

Unfortunately he is not able to be here this evening. However, he asked me to convey to you his admiration for the work of the Bonnie Babes Foundation and its founder – Rachel Stanfield-Porter.

The Foundation has eased the pain of the thousands of Australian families who have suffered the heart wrenching loss of a child or the distressing premature birth of their baby.

Like all of you here today, the government is very concerned that Australian women receive the best of maternity care and so we have undertaken a wide-reaching review of maternity services.

I know that Bonnie Babes and others of you here today have been involved in this review and I thank you for your very valuable input.

The review report was released last month and highlights the importance of providing information and support to women during pregnancy, birth and in the postnatal period.

The report also recognises that for women and their families who experience the loss of a child – it is vitally important that the information and support they are provided is appropriate, sensitive and timely.

One of the report’s recommendations is that a single, integrated pregnancy-related telephone support line be considered. This would be complemented by triage to a number of existing specialised support services, such as those offered by Bonnie Babes, which would be supported by the government to manage these referrals.

The Government is carefully considering these recommendations and we will be responding to the report as a whole in the coming months.

I would also like to take the opportunity of today’s garden party to acknowledge a much-loved patron of Bonnie Babes, the late Mr Brian Naylor, and his wife Moiree, who died so tragically in the Victorian Bushfires.

Brian was a compassionate caring man who was very giving with his time, regularly visiting intensive care units comforting families with prematurely born babies.

I know that Brian will be greatly missed by all those involved with Bonnie Babes, particularly the hundreds of volunteers he befriended over his 15 years with the Foundation.

Committed volunteers like Brian and Moiree, and so many of you here today, are vital to the social and economic fabric of our nation.

As the Parliamentary Secretary for the Voluntary Sector, I have the honour and privilege of meeting inspiring volunteers every day.

I am continually amazed by the passion and dedication these volunteers show. Their contribution in creating a compassionate, inclusive society is enormous.

And that’s why we in government are working towards a National Volunteering Strategy to support volunteers and recognise the wonderful work they do.

We are also continuing our discussions with the voluntary and non profit sector about developing a compact – a kind of partnership agreement – to strengthen the relationship between the government and the non profit sector.

This is because we need a new way of working together. To reduce the red tape faced by charitable and volunteer organisations and to allow them to focus on their mission – the vital work of helping Australians in need, at the grass roots level.

Such as the sensitive work of the Bonnie Babes Foundation, which not only helps over 17,000 families every year, but also supports important medical research projects.

We know that stillbirth, neonatal death and prematurity are heartbreaking events that can happen to any Australian family.

Over 50,000 babies are lost in Australia each year from miscarriage and stillbirth, and over 17,000 babies are born prematurely, many of them with serious health conditions.

The sensitive and caring work that Bonnie Babes does with families experiencing such deep sadness and loss is an enormous contribution to our community.

So I would like to end with a very short poem by Emily Dickinson that I feel reflects the invaluable work of the Foundation and all the volunteers here today.
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Congratulations to the Bonnie Babes Foundation and their volunteers for the healing work they do and to the organisers of this event for hosting such a fantastic garden party.

Thank you once again for allowing me to be a part of such a memorable occasion.