SUMMER'S DAY: In honour of Summer Steer who died in 2013 after she swallowed a button battery. Summer's mum, Andrea Shoesmith.
SUMMER'S DAY: In honour of Summer Steer who died in 2013 after she swallowed a button battery. Summer's mum, Andrea Shoesmith.

Summer’s tragedy inspires battery safety reforms

There was no sense of triumph when Noosa’s Andrea Shoesmith was told the death of her four-year-old daughter Summer Steer after swallowing a button battery had not been in vain.

Ever since Summer died seven years ago Ms Shoesmith has been a dogged and vocal advocate for mandatory and enforceable button battery safety reforms.

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Just before Christmas the Federal Government finally acted to make this happen.

“I was a bit numb when I heard,” she said.

“I thought ‘oh my god is this really happening, have we really done this’?

“I did all this for her and the all those other kids,” Ms Shoesmith said.

Those other children sadly includes 14-month-old Isabella Rees who died in a Melbourne hospital in 2015 after swallowing a button battery.

Then tragically in July last year three-year-old Gold Coast tot Brittney Conway suffered the same painful death as the battery burned through her oesophagus and into her aorta.

The Federal Government cites at least 44 cases of young children suffering severe injuries from ingesting button batteries since December 2017.

Summer Steer, 4, from Tewantin, who died after swallowing a lithium battery
Summer Steer, 4, from Tewantin, who died after swallowing a lithium battery

Early in February the ABC’s Australian Story is scheduled to screen Ms Shoesmith’s personal account of her gripping campaign which has been strongly supported by Isabella’s grieving mum Lorraine.

The program also highlights the latest tragedy with the Rees family.

That the Federal Government will enact stronger safety precautions and sanctions for those not complying has given great heart to ABC Sunshine Coast radio presenter Annie Gaffney.

It was Ms Gaffney who pitched this story of intense personal family heartache and eventual vindication to Australian Story.

“As a mother myself I was a bit shocked that I wasn’t aware of the dangers of button batteries,” said Ms Gaffney who is co-producer of the episode.

She said Summer’s mum agreed to do the program straight away because she has been such “an incredible advocate ” for battery reform.

“It takes a lot out of her to do any kind of media really, because you can imagine she’s been doing it pretty much since day one.

“It’s going to be a triumphant story out of a lot of grief.

“My sense of all three of those women is they are just going to be amazing to contend with and they have been all along,” Ms Gaffney said.

A key ally along the way has been Kidsafe Queensland who have made the last Summer’s Day the annual flagship of their button battery safety campaign.

As well the Noosa News and Sunshine Coast Daily have provided ongoing coverage of Ms Shoesmith’s efforts to improve safety standards while also keeping the memory of Summer alive.

Tewantin State School has been turning out for Summer's Day to raise awareness of the dangers of button batteries and to remember Summer Steer.
Tewantin State School has been turning out for Summer's Day to raise awareness of the dangers of button batteries and to remember Summer Steer.

On the last day of summer, Ms Shoesmith attends her daughter’s former school in Tewantin to celebrate Summer’s life and push button battery safety awareness.

The kids all turn out in a sea of purple and Ms Shoesmith is pleased Summer’s favourite colour has helped trigger sweeping legal reforms to hopefully spare other families emotional pain.

“It’s a start, they’re just bloody awful things,” Ms Shoesmith said of the batteries.

“As I told Australian Story, there are hundred of children that are living now with terrible injuries.

“There’s still more to be done, but now there’ll be consequences,” she said.

Ms Shoesmith said the one area lacking in the new legislation is the disposal of these batteries.

She said there needs to be special disposal bins like the sharps containers for used hypodermic needles of drug users.

The Federal Government has mandated an 18 month transition period for the battery safeguards to allow industry to implement any manufacturing and design changes to products and packaging.

This new safety and information standards will require:

• secure battery compartments for consumer goods that contain button batteries to prevent children from gaining access to the batteries;

• compliance testing of consumer goods that contain button batteries;

• child resistant packaging for button batteries; and

• product warnings to alert consumers that a button battery is included.