Wednesday, 23 December 2015

2015 Reflections from Sands Australia CEO

As the year draws to a close and I mark my first year in post as CEO of Sands Australia, I’ve recently spent some time reflecting on the past 12 months. Marked with celebrations, laughter, a few tears and heartfelt goodbyes, the last 12 months have been an inspiring, yet sobering experience. 

I’ve really been moved by our Volunteer Parent Supporters who give up hours and hours of their own time so that Sands can continue to offer around the clock support. I am so grateful for their commitment and efforts. Yet, to know that 106,000 families experienced the death of a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, medical termination or newborn death in the space of just 12 months has been distressing and overwhelming at times.

This is my first blog as CEO of Sands Australia, and I am writing it to coincide with the release of our strategy. Due to be launched in early January, our first strategic plan; Sands 2015 – 2020: Providing hope and understanding for bereaved parents across Australia, will challenge Sands as an organisation so that we can reach out to more people and, once and for all, address the taboo that surrounds the death of a baby in Australia today.

As you know, Sands Australia is a national not for profit organisation. Our focus is to provide information, support and education to parents, their families and healthcare professionals following the death of a baby; whether through miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death. We are different from other counselling organisations as our volunteers offer a real sense of understanding and hope; they too have been through the devastation of losing a baby.

This year was the busiest yet for Sands Australia; some highlights include:

ü  The National Support Line supported a record 2,100 bereaved parents – a 24% increase compared to last year.  
ü  We received and responded to over 400 support emails.
ü  We held over 150 local support meetings across Australia.
ü  A record 1,500 Healthcare Professionals attended 45 information sessions in local hospitals. 
ü  A record 12,763 people are now supporters on social media – up by 351%.
ü  Our blog continues to grow in popularity with over 11,000 views in the last six months.
ü  We distributed a record 30,000 brochures to healthcare professionals and families.
ü  We received generous donations from a record 148 new donors.
Sands volunteers are the heart of our organisation.  They have so generously given over 70,000 hours of time to Sands and bereaved parents over the year. In economic terms that equates to $1.4m, a phenomenal achievement for the size of our organisation. I cannot thank our wonderful volunteers enough. They make it possible for us to be available, 24/7, every day of the year, so that no bereaved parent or family needs to suffer alone.

So what lies ahead for Sands Australia in 2016?

The year ahead promises to be just as exciting. We will be launching our first ever strategy in January, it will be our road map for the next five years.

We want to reach out to more bereaved parents across Australia. We will be recruiting more volunteers and expanding our services to meet this demand. We will also develop a presence in NSW, NT and ACT where we currently have no local services.

We are also passionate about ensuring that all bereaved parents experience the best possible care and support, following the death of a baby. We will work with the sector to develop services and training for healthcare professionals. Unfortunately it is still taboo to talk about miscarriage or stillbirth and we need to change this, so we will be working much harder at raising public awareness and understanding of pregnancy and baby loss in Australia.

We will also embark on a very important journey within Sands to look at how we are currently structured and how we could improve this going forward. Our goal is to ensure that no bereaved parent is left isolated in Australia and if we are to achieve this, we need to ensure our organisation is ready for the large task ahead. 

I would like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you to our generous supporters, fundraisers and donors who help us make it possible to provide support, understand and hope to bereaved parents and families across the country.
Finally, I’d like to wish you a peaceful Christmas and New Year and remind you that we are available around the clock this festive period and every other day.

Sands Australia CEO

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