Image: Child pictured is not the First Nations Child referred to in this article. Image: afls.org.au.
By LAUREN FROST
A First Nations woman and her family are crippled with fear over a court order demanding her 2-year-old child be deported to Belgium tomorrow, the 22nd of December, with her allegedly abusive ex-husband.
The woman was served Hague Convention Child Abduction papers by her ex-husband, a convention which has been highly scrutinised for not adequately taking into account domestic violence situations.
The federal government announced reforms to the Hague Convention on the 12th of this month.
“The Albanese Government has amended the law to make it clear that allegations of family and domestic violence can be considered before return orders are made for children under the Hague Convention,” The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP said in a statement.
However, these amendments do not work retroactively and therefore do nothing to help this First Nations woman and her 2-year-old.
“This is what The Hague Convention really looks like, a two year old daughter being ripped and crying from the arms of her mother,” the woman said.
Alleged Domestic Violence
When the First Nations woman was heavily pregnant, she was allegedly coerced by her ex-husband into travelling to Belgium where he is from. Immediately upon arrival the woman purchased a plane ticket to return home to Australia to give birth as she knew she was unsafe in Belgium.
Due to an alleged domestic violence incident, the woman was placed in hospital on bed rest and told she could not fly. She was forced to give birth in Belgium in February of 2020 and was stuck there due to COVID-19 border closures and an inability to escape her partner.
After giving birth, the woman and her baby were allegedly locked in an attic by the Belgium man.
8 days after the baby was born, the First Nations woman began the process of obtaining Australian Citizenship for her child, which was heavily delayed due to COVID-19. As soon as she could, she fled from Belgium to Australia with her child.
Now, both the First Nations woman and her child have an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) against the Belgium man. Yet, the child is still set to be deported to Belgium on the 22nd of December, away from her mother.
“Why can’t they see that only an abusive man would rip a two year old from her mum only two days before Christmas,” the First Nations woman said.
“This is a man who said that if he dies, he wants [child’s name] to die with him. This is a man who said that he knows where he can bury me and get away with it”.
The Belgium man has allegedly sent threatening photos to the First Nations woman and has allegedly made inappropriate posts about the 2-year-old child on social media.
Unsafe to Fly
Not only does the ADVO exist against this man, but the 2-year-old child has been repeatedly evaluated by medical professionals who have concluded that she is not fit to fly due to potentially serious medical issues.
Specifically, the child has a haemangioma, a type of tumour that “would be prone to sudden and catastrophic rupture and haemorrhage” according to her medical specialist.
Some of these health issues also affect the child’s capacity to eat, with many foods causing her to vomit. She is still reliant on breastfeeding to acquire nutrients. Taking her away from her mother could seriously impact the health of the child as a result.
Apart from the safety and medical concerns regarding the removal of the child, there is also the consideration of the child’s First Nations identity.
In a Cultural Care Plan for the child from Relationships Australia, it is stated that to remove the child “from the opportunity to continually engage with family and community on Country, in all forms, would be no less detrimental than past and current removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from Country, family, community and culture.”
“As a nation, we have a national shame called the stolen generation and we are still, to this day, paying the price in our communities for that, including, and especially in, the areas of health and wellbeing,” the report continues.
The Belgium man has full custody of the child in Belgium as the First Nations mother cannot afford to provide housing in a country where she cannot work or speak the language. The Australian Government needs to intervene for the safety and wellbeing of this First Nations child and her mother.
This family are pleading for urgent government intervention. Specifically, the family need an urgent Children’s Court Ministerial Care order from Premier Dominic Perrottet and NSW Community Services Minister Natasha Maclaren-Jones.
“There is no place in Australia for a law that intentionally ignores the best interests of the child, and the best interests of the First Nations child”.