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Oct 15: International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day

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On Monday 15 October Australian bereaved parents will pause to remember their babies who’ve died, joining families from the United States, Canada, Norway, Italy and Kenya in observing International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day.


This annual day of remembrance is a significant one on Sands’ calendar, honouring the approximately 106,000 thousand babies who lose their lives to miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death each year.

“Parents consistently tell us that opportunities to acknowledge their baby’s life and to simply say their name are so meaningful to them and their families,” said Sands’ Chief Executive Officer, Jackie Mead.

“We know that recognising and validating bereaved parents’ experiences and honouring their grief helps families cope with and adjust to life without their baby as best they can,” she said.

“International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day is a powerful opportunity to do so as a community, whilst also encouraging more public conversations about what are still quite taboo topics.”

Each year Sands organises a number of memorial events for bereaved parents and their families across Australia. This year, Walks to Remember will take place in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, with the addition of candlelight remembrance ceremonies in some locations and an online Wave of Light.

“Our Walks to Remember are special annual events around Australia that bring bereaved parents together with their families and friends to commemorate their babies who’ve died, to share their experiences openly and to support each other,” said Ms Mead.

“Each of our local events has its own identity and history and is led by a group of Sands volunteer parent supporters. The walks attract so many local families each year and are just one of the ways Sands uses its model of peer support to companion parents on such a difficult road.”

“When you connect with a Sands’ volunteer parent supporter, whether at a local event, on our national support line, by email or live chat, you can be sure you’ll be heard and understood. Each of our volunteers is themselves a bereaved parent who brings the unique attributes of personal experience, empathy, and hope to those who perhaps can’t see a way forward after loss.”

Sands announces organisational changes

Recently Sands has undertaken a significant organisational restructure from its former federated model to a new unified structure.

Sands Australia and each of Sands’ state-based organisations have joined together to become Sands Limited.

This unification is an exciting and historical development in Sands’ almost forty year history.

Reducing our administrative costs and increasing our funding potential will enable us to better allocate resources to build upon the many great local initiatives that already exist throughout Australia.

It will also enable us to share and develop the amazing skillsets and experiences of our volunteers and staff for the benefit of all bereaved parents, no matter where they live.

Each organisation that has joined Sands Limited has a proud history to honour and a strong grassroots culture to uphold. None of this will change. It remains a key goal of Sands limited to build upon this strong grassroots ethos and to address the disparity in services and resources that currently exists in many areas of the country.

We recognize the incredible and tireless work of Sands Queensland, Sands Victoria, Sands Western Australia, Sands South Australia and Sands Tasmania, alongside the dedicated service of their respective Chairs and Presidents who have played a crucial role in leading Sands forward over the past four decades.

We also acknowledge the countless volunteers and staff, past and present, who have contributed to Sands becoming a leading light in bereavement support for parents who’ve experienced the death of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death.

Sands Limited is governed by a new Board of Directors including a new Chair:

Appointment of new Chair

Rachel Green

Our Board of Directors have appointed Rachel Green as the Chair of our new organisation.

Based in Sydney, Rachel is the current CEO of Independent Community Living Australia (ICLA) and the former Director of LifeSpan, the Black Dog Institute’s systems approach to suicide prevention.
Rachel is widely recognised for her achievements in large scale project establishment and implementation, sector engagement and mental health leadership. She brings extensive experience in working with people with lived experience as well as working with government at both state and federal levels.

Appointment of new CEO

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The Board of Directors are also very pleased to announce the appointment of Jackie Mead as Sands Limited’s new Chief Executive Officer.

Jackie Mead brings her extensive background in not-for-profit management to her position of CEO at Sands. Jackie is a well-known leader in her field, working with government and across sector partnerships to deliver impactful and responsive services. Jackie has most recently served as a member of the Executive at Berry Street Victoria with responsibilities across a variety of corporate portfolios.

Jackie is passionate about social justice and about ensuring that Australia is a place where community connection and support is available to help in the most difficult of times.

She says: “I am honoured to be part of Sands, an organisation I have admired for many years. My personal experience, and the stories I hear from our volunteers who provide peer support to families who are grieving the loss of a baby, reinforce my commitment to the organisation and to ensuring that the voice of bereaved parents is heard as we continue to develop improved services.”

Future Direction

There will be no immediate changes to our current activities and services. For the thousands of bereaved parents we support each year it will be business as usual when accessing our national support line, email and online support, and local support groups. Our local events such as the annual Walks to Remember and other memorial events will continue as they are.

Celebrating Bereaved Dads this Father's Day

International Bereaved Fathers Day Purple

Most dads look forward to Father’s Day. A rare sleep in. A steaming hot coffee delivered bedside. A gift cut and pasted by little hands or, as time goes on, a chance to get the whole family back together for a meal.

For fathers left bereaved by the death of a child, however, Father’s Day represents a considerably more complicated emotional landscape.

Those who also have living children often report being caught between the joy of the current moment and the immense sadness about what might have been.

Those whose only child has died might wonder if they can call themselves a father at all.

In 2010 Western Australian writer and artist Carly Marie Dudley initiated International Bereaved Father's Day to honour fathers who’ve experienced the death of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death.

There are more of those dads than you'd think.

Statistics tell us that 2500 babies are stillborn in Australia every year. A further 700 die within the first few hours, days or weeks of life. It’s estimated that another 103,000 babies each year are lost through miscarriage.

Behind those statistics are the stories – the love stories, of dads missing daughters and dads missing sons.

“Fathers’ Day and other family-centred occasions like it is often a time of renewed sadness for fathers whose babies have died,” says Sands General Manager Services, Janelle Marshall.

“Because a father’s loss is sometimes less tangible than a mother’s, a father’s needs and feelings can be, however unintentionally, overlooked in the aftermath of such a traumatic loss.”

“It’s so important to recognise that dads grieve too and that they also need the time and space to do so in the weeks, months and often even years later."

Of the bereaved dads who contact Sands for support, Janelle said many report that it is immensely helpful to be able to talk to other fathers who’ve had similar experiences.

“Sands volunteers provide a number of support services for bereaved parents, including our dedicated Men’s Support Line, which connects grieving dads with others fathers who’ve experienced pregnancy or infant loss,” she said.

“We want bereaved fathers to know they don’t need to grieve in silence on Fathers’ Day – or on any other day of the year.”

Sands’ Men’s Support Line is available by appointment on Father’s Day and at any time throughout the year. Visit www.sands.org.au/male-parent-supporters for more information.

Sands at the Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education

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On Thursday 9 August Sands’ Caretaker CEO, Lyndy Bowden, and General Manager Services, Janelle Marshall, attended the Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education’s Public Hearing in Melbourne.

Sands was invited to present at the hearing based on our earlier submission to the enquiry, which called for improvements in the awareness and uptake of bereavement support services like Sands amongst newly bereaved parents as well as greater investment in bereavement education for health professionals.

We were moved to hear members of the Select Committee talk about how stillbirth has affected their lives in the most personal and devastating of ways.

Further, the stories from bereaved parents who spoke of their experiences both prior to their babies being stillborn and afterwards were powerful and affecting, demonstrating how far, how wide, and for how long the personal, financial and societal impacts of stillbirth reach.

Janelle Marshall said that "this really spoke to the need to prioritise research and education into stillbirth and its causes, of health professionals being supported to respond to bereaved parents' emotional needs at a time of such immense grief, and the importance of support services such as Sands being there as an option for all bereaved parents."

“We came away with a real sense of hope that research into stillbirth and investment in education and support for parents and health professionals would become a greater national priority as a result of this Enquiry,” said Lyndy Bowden.

“It is Sands’ aim that all bereaved parents have knowledge of, and equal access to, good quality bereavement support in the hospital and at home and we look forward to greater opportunities to connect with more bereaved parents across Australia in the future.”

Our thanks to Committee Members Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Senator Kristina Keneally, Senator Catryna Bilyk & Senator Janet Rice.

Pictured: Lyndy Bowden with Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Senator Catryna Bilyk, Senator Janet Rice, as well as bereaved parents Brett & Doshni Stewart (holding a photo of baby Corralie).