May 22, 2015
And not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about their smiling faces — or if she is going to get them back.
Peyton, 11, and Nathaniel, 7, set off for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disneyland with their father Dariwn Lee in January last year.
Despite her reservations, Ms Nunez agreed to let her children take the overseas holiday in a bid to keep the peace following a lengthy and sometimes “poisonous” custody battle.
But she never imagined they would not come home.
“The last time I spoke to my children was the day before they were due to fly back to Australia,” Ms Nunez told news.com.au. “I have had no contact since.”
But what has been even more heartbreaking as well as frustrating for the Sydney mum is that her children are believed to be in Taiwan, a country which is not signed up The Hague Child Abduction Convention.
This means the Taiwanese authorities are not obliged to return Ms Nunez’s children to Australia.
But even if the country was signed up there is still very little authorities here can do.
While she has managed to obtain court orders for sole custody, she still has to lodge an application with the Taiwanese authorities to prove her ex has breached those court orders by failing to return the children to their mother. And that can take months.
There is also the fact parental abduction is not a crime in Australia.
While it is an offence to remove a child from Australia without the permission of the court or the other parent, it’s not a criminal offence if there are no court proceedings or orders preventing them from taking out of the country.
That is not to say authorities don’t do their utmost to find the abducted youngsters, its just they have less legal grounds to retrieve them.
According to figures from the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre, more than 400 children are abducted by a parent or family member every year — that’s around two or three children every single week.
And Australia has the highest rate per capita of international parental child abductions in the world.
In response, the Federal government in conjunction with the Australian Federal Police have developed an app for parents to alert police if their child disappears or is abducted.
The free technology allows families to store photographs and vital information about their children on their mobile phone, and features advice and checklists on what to do in the crucial few hours when something happens.
But once a child has been taken overseas, the process of getting them home is long, and in Ms Nunez’s case, almost impossible.
But she says she is extremely grateful for all the help she has received over the past year but feels the system renders parents helpless.
She explained she has spoken to “anyone that could possibly help” more than once and learnt how to navigate the complex legal process with help from family, friends and her lawyers.
And while she says focusing on trying to bring her kids home has helped “numb the pain”, it is always present.
“I feel like I am a victim of domestic violence,” she said. “I may not get beaten everyday but I am in pain every single day. I am a victim of domestic violence every single day because of this, and my children are victims of child abuse because of this.”
Ms Nunez says she has also thought of using other tactics such as hiring private investigators or “mercenaries” to bring her boys home but decided against them not just because of the cost but also because of the complications that could arise.
She says she is trying to keep faith that the path she has chosen will lead to the outcome she desperately desires.
She also says she hopes her children know she will never stop looking for them.
“I want them to know that I have never stopped loving them, I have never stopped looking for them and that I will find them,” she said. “I can’t wait for them to come home. I want them to know that things will go back to normal. And that I now promise that they can have a puppy.”
She also says she wants her ex to make contact with authorities.
“I just want him to know that it makes me really sad.,” she said. “I trusted him. He did the wrong thing. The boys need their mother and their father. I never denied him that. The boys deserve better. Do the right thing and bring them home.”
Any information regarding the childrens’ or husband’s whereabouts should be given to the Australian Federal Police in Sydney on 02 9286 4000 or 131 444 or at their local police station if in Victoria.
May 25 is International Missing Children’s Day. For further information or to show your support visitwww.helpbringthemhome.org.au/#
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