Tasmanian Labor Senator Helen Polley has strongly reiterated her plea for the Queensland Government to introduce “Baby Safe Havens” following the abandonment of a newborn outside an ambulance station in Rockhampton yesterday. This is the second instance of a newborn being abandoned in Queensland in the last week. On Saturday a baby, since nicknamed “Moses”, was left outside the door of a family’s home in the Logan City suburb of Kingston near Brisbane.
Senator Polley said that the circumstances of these latest incidents were heartbreaking.
“We know Moses was underweight, that he was just a few days old and that he was dumped on the doorstep of a well-known family in the local community at five thirty in the morning. One can only imagine the turmoil this mother must have been experiencing to take this desperate step. Details of the baby being abandoned in Rockhampton yesterday are still being established, police have not been able to identify the mother and there are obvious concerns for her welfare.
“These mothers and babies need help, they need the option of Baby Safe Havens and they need this option available now. We can’t delay this any longer,” Senator Polley said.
Late last week Senator Polley supported calls from Dr Christian Rowan, President of the Australian Medical Association of Queensland, and the Liberal National Party’s Women’s Redlands branch for Queensland to be the first state or territory in Australia to have such a scheme in place. The LNP Redlands branch successfully carried a motion close to two weeks ago calling on Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to introduce Baby Safe Havens.
“I would urge Premier Newman to assist struggling mothers and their newborn babies by seizing the initiative and making Queensland the first Australian state or territory to legislate for the introduction of Baby Safe Havens. The Queensland Government should not wait any longer,” Senator Polley said.
Senator Polley has a long standing interest in this matter. Over the last several years she has made numerous radio and television appearances calling for the introduction of safe havens across Australia and regularly receives letters, emails and phone calls from people across Australia supporting her efforts to have safe havens widely available.
“It really has been extraordinary how many people have taken the time to contact me about this issue; it is something that many Australians feel is long overdue.
“Recently, we have seen multiple cases of babies being abandoned in Australia, including these latest episodes in Queensland. This just shows that there are women who require these safe havens, so there is no good reason why we should not be able to provide them with this service. It is not about removing the responsibility of child birth, it is about assisting women who are desperate. Women who are not psychologically, emotionally or financially equipped to take care of their babies,” Senator Polley said.
Senator Polley also maintained that law makers need to change their perspective about baby abandonment and the safe haven debate. At present, baby abandonment is treated as a criminal offence, with the parent able to be prosecuted for their action. A national system of laws would allow for the creation of baby safe havens across the country in pre-established, fully-staffed community buildings, such as fire stations, police stations and hospitals. Here, a parent could legally abandon a baby up to a certain age without fear of criminal prosecution. At the same time, they would be able to leave their newborn in a safe environment where that child would receive proper care and medical treatment if required.
The mother or father would also be offered, without undue pressure, referrals for counselling or assistance. This may, in some instances, be the open door that allows them to access the help they need but were too afraid to ask for.
In addition to this, Senator Polley pointed out that Baby Safe Havens are being used in health services in many places around the world, including parts of the United States, Canada as well as Germany and Italy.
“So really, what are we waiting for? For yet another tragedy involving a mother leaving her baby in danger by abandoning them in an unsafe place? Premier Newman should heed the calls of the Australian Medical Association of Queensland and act decisively.”