Judy Clarkson, the first Sands Queensland President, established Sands Queensland after she found little support to help her understand the intensity and duration of her grief following the loss of her daughter Janette in March 1983. Janette was stillborn at 40 weeks after what was a perfect pregnancy.
I only saw my beautiful girl for 5 minutes but the loss had completely devastated me. Whilst visiting Perth my sister in-law introduced me to Sands and I wondered why such a group did not exist in Brisbane.
On my return I set about gaining support to establish a similar group. Support from an advisory body came via various medical and paramedical professionals from Brisbane hospitals already involved in the grief and loss area. Other supporters from associated services also became involved and the first meeting took place on the 9th of November 1983 at the Maternal & Child Health office.
The meeting was attended by around fifty people and included an informative lecture by Professor David Tudehope, Director of Neonatology at Mater Mothers Hospital. Dr Tudehope had carried out a study of parents who had experienced a stillbirth. This study enabled the staff of Mater Mothers to develop a list of practices helpful for parental grief.
I became the first Committee President and worked closely with the standing committee in an effort to grow Sands Queensland and ensure support was available to all those in need.
I had no previous experience in what I set out to do in setting up Sands, but the whole way through I knew it was what my daughter Janette would have wanted me to do – and I am sure she was there to guide me along the way because it was so important that Sands became established in Queensland.
The growth, development and support that have been fostered through the hospital network that really didn’t exist prior to Sands are its greatest achievement. The network that has been set up across the state and encompasses a wide number of regional locations offering support to so many families. The many services that have been developed including the parent phone support network, newsletter, publications; support meetings, library service and the volunteer network are all commendable.
One of the most memorable early achievements must be the lobbying and achievement of the recognition of Stillbirths in a legal capacity. This meant the registration of a Birth and Death Certificate.
Judy’s story shows us how much of a difference one person can make to the support of bereaved families. We thank Judy and those first volunteers for their courage and strength in starting Sands Queensland and we thank all the volunteers and staff since those early days who have dedicated their time to supporting and improving the support services Sands Queensland provides.
To find out more about becoming a Sands Queensland Volunteer, visit our website.
For full information on Sands support services, visit our Support Page.