Behind the Noses - Bonnie’s story

There are many dedicated staff, volunteers, and supporters who together make the work of Red Nose possible. This is Bonnie’s story.

Bonnie Carter OAM

Bonnie Carter OAM is a member of our Community Advisory Group, loving mother to Matilda and Grace gone, but forever in her heart, and Evie who was born in 2021. In the 2022, Bonnie was awarded an Order of Australia for her service to the community.

I am the ACT representative on the Red Nose National Community Advisory Committee. This committee provides advice to our Board, helping us to plan and implement meaningful community engagement strategy and initiatives, that all Australian families can benefit from. I am particularly passionate about this role for the Canberra community and look forward to seeing the Red Nose footprint grow stronger here in the ACT.

It’s only been a few weeks and I am truly in disbelief that I was awarded an OAM. I enjoy reading the Australia Day Honours List every year, looking for names of people I know, and learning about the incredible causes people have dedicated their lives to. Also, as an Australian Public Servant with a Federal Government career myself, I hone in on these lists to look for colleagues and peers who I work alongside doing wonderful work for the Australian Government. As a Canberran, I look for locals that spread the love in our community and help to give back through so many amazing causes. It sparks joy in my heart to know there are so many good people in the world who want to do things to help others. It’s a feel-good moment for me reading these honours lists.

I never actually expected I would ever land an OAM myself. It is an enormous privilege and I am so humbled to know that our love for our girls has had an impact on the community. At the end of the day, I am just a Mum doing all I can to show my love for our girls who are no longer here. My desire to help others stems directly from my desire to love our girls so fiercely and to ensure their memory never ever fades.

It has been a traumatic and hard six-plus years of missing our girls. Grace was born at 19+2 weeks on 2nd June 2016, after a tragic diagnosis of various complex heart deformities, including Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (she only had half a heart). Matilda was stillborn in the same bed and same room as Grace at the Canberra Hospital on 8th December 2017. She was tiny and perfect, a perfect little sister to keep Grace company in heaven.

We have been quite busy in the midst of our losses and our grief. Partly keeping busy to help ourselves push through the deep dark depths of grief, but partly to give back to the community that has supported us in this terrible time.

It all started with a small fundraiser for Bears of Hope. Less than 3 months after losing Grace in 2016, my husband Steve and I participated in the City to Surf road race in Sydney – 14KM from the CBD to Bondi. Doing this we raised $2800 for Bears of Hope, and so began our journey of fundraising and advocacy for pregnancy loss and stillbirth awareness. We have run several fundraisers, including fundraising and designing the renovation of the Canberra Hospital’s Bereavement Suite in the Fetal Medicine Unit (directly working with the Canberra Hospital Foundation) 2018-2019.

I am also very proud of contributing to the design and development of the ACT Government’s Early Pregnancy Loss Certificate which was launched in 2021.

When you become a parent, every fibre of your being turns to protecting, nurturing, and, loving your child. You will do anything to ensure they are healthy and safe, at all costs. For some, that instinct kicks in from the first scan seeing your baby’s heartbeat; for others, it might be the actual birth and that first physical contact. For me, from the moment I knew I had a little life growing inside my belly, from the moment I saw those 2 lines on the pregnancy test, my motherly instinct kicked in.

When you are tragically thrust into the world of baby loss and find out that your longed-for baby won’t be ever coming home, that maternal or paternal instinct does not fade away by any means. If anything, that flame in your heart burns strong than ever, with the fiercest tenacity to protect your child’s memory. To be their voice, to take the footsteps they’ll never get to take, to share their story with the world because they will never get to. To ensure they are never forgotten and always loved. No matter what.

That flame in my heart, that love as a mother, is why I do the advocacy work I do and why it matters so much to me. Honouring our stillborn daughters and sharing their story, is the way we will love and nurture their little lives forever.

It breaks our hearts to know that so many other families share the lifelong pain of missing their baby or babies. We know stillbirth and pregnancy loss doesn’t discriminate and we certainly know that tragedy can strike more than once. So in all that we do, we want to help other families; to honour the other babies gone too soon and show our love to those families.

I have been a long-term supporter of Red Nose Day, as has my family. We have donated through various means even before the losses of Grace and Matilda – we never actually thought we’d end up calling on the amazing services of Red Nose bereavement support. I fondly remember attending a Canberra Raiders NRL game many years ago, before babies were even on the horizon. It was a special game fundraising for Red Nose on Red Nose Day. We were in the crowd proudly wearing our Red Noses and seeing the Canberra community come together for such an important cause (completely unaware how much Red Nose would one day mean to us).

Based on my previous advocacy and fundraising work for the Canberra bereaved parents’ community, I was selected for the Red Nose Community Advisory Committee and commenced working as the ACT rep in early 2021.

All of the advocacy and fundraising work I have done over the years has been done so with a community-centric approach, particularly in supporting my local Canberra friends. I am merely but one voice of the Canberra community. We may be a small community, but we have an almighty community of bereaved parents here who passionately fight to honour the memories of our babies. I am honoured to do the work that I do to support those families. It is of the highest importance to me to ensure that those local families never feel alone or isolated in their journey as bereaved parents.

So, it was of course, a natural decision for me to join the Red Nose ‘family’ through the Community Advisory Committee, as I knew the focus of the community was at the heart of what Red Nose do.

I and the other state and territory reps meet about five times a year, currently via Zoom (I really hope we can all meet in person once this dreaded pandemic calms down a little). The committee was launched in 2021, so we were busy with lots of planning discussions but also some incredible conversations around emerging Red Nose initiatives and strategies. Let me tell you, it is super exciting to be working in this role with Red Nose and having first-hand insight and a significant ‘voice’ into the future direction of Red Nose and its activities in each state and territory.

In a nutshell, my role on the committee is to strategically advise the Red Nose organisation on the ‘community’ perspective of all Red Nose policies, programs, initiatives, and activities. Each committee member is a fellow bereaved parent bringing a diversity of experience and high-level thought to the committee ‘table.’

It is truly an honour and incredible privilege to represent ACT on the Community Advisory Committee. Red Nose is such a vital pillar in supporting the Australian bereaved parent’s community, and it is the work of Red Nose that will ultimately save the lives of so many babies in the future. The work Red Nose does educate families far and wide and undertaking world-class research into the prevention of pregnancy loss, stillbirth, SIDS and newborn death is vital in our community. I am honoured to be part of all that Red Nose do. What I love best about this particular Red Nose Committee is that we are all bereaved parents, all with our own stories and experiences of loss. No bereaved parent has the same experience. I love that this committee brings that breadth of knowledge together with mutual respect, care, and commitment to saving babies’ lives in honour of our babies no longer here. Red Nose will forever remain a special part of my family, and I look forward to further opportunities to support and work with Red Nose long into the future.

Red Nose pulled us out of the awful black hole, especially after our second stillbirth of Matilda. They did not just assist us, but Red Nose saved us. Our phenomenal Red Nose Bereavement Counsellor brought us back from the brink, breathed life into us again, and helped us to thrive every day. We are forever thankful for the Red Nose ‘family’ for showing us light, love, and laughter again. Without Red Nose, we would have slowly fumbled through the mess of grief and took a lot longer to find our way up again.

Matilda and Grace were stillborn, but they were still born. They still mattered, they still existed, they were two little souls we held, cuddled and loved so dearly. We miss Grace and Matilda, and we want their little sister to grow up and know that she has two exceptional big sisters watching over her always.

Grace, Matilda and Evelyn – our daughters, two in our hearts and one in our arms.