Referral and conduct of the inquiry
On 27 March 2018 the Senate established the Select Committee on
Stillbirth Research and Education to inquire into and report on the future of
stillbirth research and education in Australia, with particular reference to:
- consistency and timeliness of data available to researchers across
states, territories and federal jurisdictions;
coordination between Australian and international researchers;
partnerships with the corporate sector, including use of innovative new
sustainability and propriety of current research funding into
stillbirth, and future funding options, including government, philanthropic and
research and education priorities and coordination, including the role
that innovation and the private sector can play in stillbirth research and
communication of stillbirth research for Australian families, including
culturally and linguistically appropriate advice for Indigenous and
multicultural families, before and during a pregnancy;
quantifying the impact of stillbirths on the Australian economy; and
any related matters.
The committee indicated that it would consider individual cases and
personal experiences where these addressed and were directly relevant to the
terms of reference. The committee also indicated that it did not intend to
accept personal records, such as medical records, coroners' reports and/or
The committee received 269 submissions (listed at Appendix 1).
The committee took evidence over six days of public hearings in:
- Sydney on 8 August 2018;
Melbourne on 9 August 2018;
Adelaide on 10 August 2018;
Katherine on 5 September 2018;
Brisbane on 6 September 2018; and
Canberra on 7 September 2018.
The witnesses who appeared at these hearings are listed at Appendix 2.
Structure and scope of this report
This report comprises eight chapters:
- Chapter 1 outlines the conduct of the inquiry, and the
definitions for stillbirth across jurisdictions;
Chapter 2 outlines the numbers, rates, causes, and risk factors
of stillbirth in Australia in comparison to other high-income countries;
Chapter 3 discusses the economic and social impacts of
Chapter 4 discusses stillbirth reporting and data collection;
Chapter 5 discusses stillbirth research, innovative technology
and corporate sector partnerships;
Chapter 6 discusses quality of care in relation to stillbirth;
Chapter 7 discusses stillbirth education and public awareness
Chapter 8 considers stillbirth research and education in the
context of international and policy frameworks, and strategies to reduce the
rate of stillbirth in Australia.
The standard definition of stillbirth in Australia is a birth (by 'expulsion
or extraction') with no signs of life of at least 20 weeks' gestation or with a
birthweight of at least 400 grams. This definition is used by both the
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Australian Institute of Health
and Welfare (AIHW), the two entities collecting and publishing stillbirth data
However, there are variations within this broad definition of stillbirth
that make collation and comparison of data across Australian jurisdictions
Definitions of stillbirth also vary considerably around the world. High-income
countries typically define stillbirth as a death occurring between 20 to 24
weeks and later, while the majority of low-income countries use 28 weeks'
gestation or 1000 grams—the
definition recommended for international comparison by the World Health
The WHO definition is used by AIHW when reporting internationally and to
enable international comparisons.
The committee thanks individuals and organisations that contributed to
the inquiry, and takes this opportunity to express its gratitude to those
individuals who took the time to share their personal stories with the
The committee also thanks the Katherine Hospital for hosting the
committee during a site visit on 5 September 2018.
The committee appreciates that, for some, sharing their personal
experiences was difficult and upsetting. The committee was deeply moved by
these stories and the inquiry has benefitted from their being shared.
Notes on references
References to Committee Hansard may be references to the proof
transcript. Page numbers may differ between proof and official transcripts.
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