July 10, 2012
THE four girls at the centre of an international custody dispute will be released from foster care to live with their mother pending a High Court hearing in August.
In emotional scenes in the Family Court this afternoon, Justice Peter Murphy ruled the girls be placed in their mother’s care after considering submissions, including that at least one of the sisters had made comments about self harming while in state care.
He said although he was reluctant to make the order, “on balance” returning the sisters to their mother was the better option, citing concerns for their welfare.
He added that it was not the purpose of the hearing to determine whether the mother had a role in the girls’ disappearance in May, when they breached a court order ordering that they return to Italy.
The Department of Communities had opposed the mother’s application, arguing that remaining in foster care was “the lesser of two evils” in the circumstances. The girls’s father had also argued against the release arguing the mother would further “alienate” his daughters from him.
The conditions of the release from foster care are being determined now.
The girls’ mother applied to have the children, aged 9 to 14, released from foster care pending High Court proceedings in August.
Earlier, a teenager at the centre of an international custody dispute has penned an emotional plea, begging to be allowed to live with her mother in Australia. The letter was read out in the Family Court in Brisbane on Friday, where the mother is attempting to regain custody of her four daughters, who are in foster care. It was written by the eldest girl.
“If you ask me there is nothing in the whole world I want more than just to be home with my mum and back at school with my friends again,” the teenager wrote, adding that she wished for “a miracle from God” that it could happen.
The girls have been trying to avoid a Family Court order to return to Italy with their father.
They are not attending school while they await the High Court challenge in August.
The mother’s barrister Dr Jacoba Brash said evidence provided by the girls’ own Department of Communities case workers say the sisters are feeling “nauseous, anxious and dizzy”.
She urged the judge to consider “the reality of the children’s situation” and return them to their mother.
But the Department of Communities said there was a risk the children could go back into hiding if they were placed in the care of their mother.
Earlier this year they hid for more than a week before police found them on the Sunshine Coast.
Barrister James Linklater-Steele said the mother was also poisoning the children’s relationship with their father.
The relationship between he and the girls had improved since they were placed in foster care, he said.
He argued that to return them to the “uncontrolled environment” of their mother’s care would “severely risk the advances that have been made to date”.
Earlier, the Family Court justice dismissed an application to have the girls’ great-aunt appointed legal guardian, noting the sisters had “a voice” in the submissions before him.
However, he ruled the great-aunt, as a potential carer – should the application to have them released prove successful – had the right to be legally represented as an individual at the hearing.
This morning the girls’ mother applied to have the children, aged 9 to 14, released from foster care pending High Court proceedings in August.
The hearing continues.
Miranda Forster, Andrew Macdonald
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