Girls win first battle to stay
THE Sunshine Coast family of four girls in a bitter custody battle have been granted the chance to show why they were denied natural justice in family court proceedings.
The mother of the four Italian-born girls was ordered to send her daughters back to Italy this month to face custody proceedings after she fled their home country for Australia in 2010.
Barrister for the great aunt, Tony Morris, applied this morning in Brisbane to have a application to show cause heard before the High Court.
He argued the girls were denied procedural fairness and natural justice as they were not represented throughout the entire custody battle.
The presiding justice ordered the show-cause application be heard before the full bench of the High Court in Brisbane in the first week of August.
The children will remain in Australia until then in the care of a foster family.
The legal representative for the Department of Community Services opposed the application on the basis the Hague Convention, which addresses international child abduction, requires a quick process.
He said the matter had gone on for over six months already.
The justice said there was enough importance to show the matter should be heard.
If in August, the great aunt's application to show cause is successful, the matter could go back to the high court.
Mr Morris said he was challenging part of the constitution.
Italian dad defends character
THE father of four Sunshine Coast girls at the centre of an international custody dispute has defended his character ahead of a High Court battle today.
The Italian man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, released the statement through his lawyer, Giovanni Porta, yesterday afternoon.
In it, the dad tells of his pain at what he calls the "many distortions and untruths published against me", describing it as "pain of which I would not wish upon any parent to have to endure".
The girls, who claimed their father had been abusive, went into hiding last week with their great-grandmother but were found on the Sunshine Coast on Monday.
The children's great-aunt made an urgent appeal in the High Court in Brisbane to keep the girls in Australia with their mother.
The High Court will reconvene this morning to hear further submissions from the children's great-aunt and the Department of Child Safety.
The father's contends that his ex-wife kidnapped the children when she took them to Australia in June 2010.
He invoked the Hague Convention when they failed to return from what he contends was meant to be a holiday.
The father's statement in full:
"Before coming to Australia to be reunited with my daughters, I knew that before enjoying their company, which I have longed for for a long time, I might have had to endure moments of great pain.
"I anticipated this as inevitable, being tied to our difficult family situation and possibly being exposed to the public by the media.
"However, I never envisaged the difficult situation being further complicated by the many distortions and untruths published against me to score points in a legal dispute, the pain of which I would not wish upon any parent to have to endure.
"I have read descriptions of me which have hurt me badly. If I were an uninformed reader of this information, I would naturally have formed a reasonable view to condemn my character.
"I have chosen, as a result of my conviction and profound respect for the courts and the legal system which they represent, to always maintain a position of respect for all parties involved in this matter.
"A negative description of me has been presented unilaterally, untruthfully and knowingly distorted by the media.
"As a result I now feel the urgent need to state, with all the voice I have, that I am a father completely different from that which has been published and repeated about me.
"The Italian courts and any other justice system are aware that I am a model father. No evidence has been presented to any courts (Italian or Australian) which supports the unfounded and incorrect allegations made against me.
"I value my affection for my children far above and beyond the difficulties which we are currently undergoing.
"I want to say to my children that they have the right to know that their father is an honest, hardworking and decent person. I am a simple person, who has chosen to pursue to its end, a long and difficult path with my only aim to be reunited with them and hug them after they have been unlawfully taken from me.
"They have the right as a result of this, to be proud of their father as I am of them."