CHERISH Life Queensland has thrown its support behind a Tasmanian senator’s bid to create safe havens for babies abandoned at birth.
Tasmanian Labor Senator Helen Polley has been advocating Baby Safe Havens for several years.
She renewed her efforts late last year following Tasmanian Coroner Olivia McTaggart’s call for the mother of a new-born baby found deceased in a park near Hobart two years ago to come forward.
“Everyone must understand that this issue is not going to go away until action is taken by state premiers to introduce this much needed service,” Senator Polley said.
CLQ state president Teresa Martin said the concept of safe havens for new-born babies had a long history in the Catholic Church.
“Pope Innocent III ordered (around 1198) the provision of what were known as ‘foundling wheels’,” she said.
“These were baby boxes installed in the walls of churches and orphanages.”
Last year, two Catholic hospitals in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, installed a modern version of the boxes.
Known as angel cradles, the boxes are installed in discretely located doors.
They open to reveal a bassinet complete with baby blanket and teddy bear.
One minute after the door is opened to allow the anonymous mother to depart, a nurse is alerted.
The foundling, now in government care, is checked by a doctor.
Ms Martin said similar baby safe havens could be set up in Australia in well-attended places including police stations, fire stations and hospitals.
“They provide an alternative to leaving new-borns in such places as toilet blocks or back alleys,” she said.
Ms Martin said mothers who made such a difficult decision were to be admired.
“These mothers are incredibly courageous,” she said.
“We will never understand their grief at having to abandon their children for a better chance … and the pressure they must have been under to make this decision.”
Senator Polley last year wrote to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman about the need for baby safe havens in Queensland following two cases of babies being abandoned – one in Rockhampton and the other in Brisbane.
She said strong community support existed for the initiative.
Australian lawmakers needed to change their perspective about baby abandonment and the safe haven debate, she said.
“At present, baby abandonment is treated as a criminal offence, with the parent able to be prosecuted for their action,” Senator Polley said.