Grieving mum pushes for change in rental laws

Baby Reef was killed when a chest of drawers fell on him.
Baby Reef was killed when a chest of drawers fell on him. Photo: Facebook: Bolt it Back for Reef

The mum of a toddler who died after a tipping a chest of drawers onto himself is fighting to have rental laws changed so tenants have the right to secure their furniture. She wants to help other families avoid the tragedy hers had endured.

Skye Quartermain put her 22-month-old son Reef down for a nap late in the morning of 13 October 2015. She checked on him several times during his nap, but didn't hear him wake up and play with the drawers.

When Skye went in to check on Reef again, she discovered him under the chest of drawers and unresponsive. Although she lifted the drawers off the little boy and raced him to a neighbour's place, where they performed CPR until an ambulance arrived, he could not be saved.

An inquest into Reef's death is underway, with evidence submitted that states that if the drawers were pulled out, the entire chest was easy to topple over.

"It was hard enough for an adult to stop the drawers falling forward," Senior Constable Steven Barnes told the court. "A young child would have no hope."

The ABC reported that Senior Constable Fiona Thorpe, former Coronial Investigations officer, said it was important for parents and carers to select "safer furniture, fix it to the wall and place locks on the drawers."

And the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission stated earlier this year that "toppling furniture and TVs cause hundreds of serious injuries each year."

The problem for renters is that they need to apply to their landlord for the right to secure their furniture to the walls. Skye Quartermain says she did just that but her request was refused.

"My family will always be incomplete," she said outside court. "My child will never grow up. I'll never see him graduate high school or get married for the first time, because of one little bracket that could have saved his life."

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Skye hopes sharing the circumstances around Reef's death will help shine a light on rental policies she says need to be changed.

"I would fully advocate and work with anyone willing to help change the law to allow parents to bolt that furniture without no ramifications for it," she said.

Kidsafe WA chief executive Scott Phillips said they would work with Consumer Protection to make sure landlords and agents don't refuse requests to make homes safer.

"They really shouldn't be knocking back any request by a family in a house to secure furniture to make their children safe," said Scott.

Skye and her family are determined to create awareness of the need to secure furniture to prevent tragedies like Reef's death from happening again. Their Facebook group Bolt it Back for Reef shares safety tips and shows how to secure furniture.