International custody dispute returns to court


The international custody dispute over four Italian-Australian sisters returned to the Federal Court in Brisbane today.

The girls, aged between nine and 15, caused a media storm in May when they went into hiding to avoid a Court’s order that they return to Italy to settle the custody dispute.

Rachel Kramer reports.

TRANSCRIPT

It was standing room only at the Federal Court today.

Journalists forced to sit on the floor to cover this family’s latest attempt to resist the court order.

The girls’ mother and her family previously launched a series of unsuccessful appeals in a bid to keep the girls in Australia. This could be their last.

Great Aunt: “We’ve done all we possibly can, we’ve done all we possibly can to support the girls.”

Their father claims the girls were abducted by their mother in 2010 when she told him they were leaving Italy for a one month holiday and never returned.

In court lawyers for the girls’ mother likened the case to a David and Goliath battle.

Mother’s lawyers: “We’ve been ambushed with last minute material.”

They say the girls have been living in Australia for so long it would be unfair to take them away.

Great Aunt: “They’ve, they’ve loved this country, they’ve loved the time that they’ve spent here. They’ve loved living here, they’ve loved the culture that Australia has offered them.”

Lawyers for the Department of Child Safety, opposing the appeal, argue the girls would be able to adjust to Italy, especially if their mother is free to move with them.

The first witness was a social worker who had been interviewing the girls to find out what they want. She told the Court that all of them were strongly opposed to being sent back with one even threatening self harm if returned to Italy.

But she also maintains the girls’ mother failed to shield them from the custody dispute, causing emotional harm.

Child Safety was less subtle, accusing the mother of manipulating her children and dragging out Court proceedings, stating, “The mother’s influence is so pervasive that you can’t rely on the childrens’ statements, they’re acting out a dramatic role their mother has forced them to play.”

Rachel Kramer, QUT News.