Acknowledgment of Country
Her Hague Story are grateful to be living on and connecting to First Nations Lands.
We pay our deepest respects to the Elders, Past, Present, and Emerging.
Why does the Hague Convention exist?
The Hague Convention was created with good intentions. It was meant to ensure that children who had been wrongfully removed by a non-custodial parent and taken across international borders, be returned to the custodial and primary attachment parent quickly. This was set in place with the understanding that it is detrimental and distressing for children to break their relationship with their primary attachment. However, less than 10% of cases involve returning children to their primary attachment parent. Usually, the Hague Convention is used as a tool of abuse by perpetrators: to torment, control, and isolate their victims.
The Hague Convention usually results in the separation of the child from the main custodial and primary attachment parent.
The Hague Convention is used to forcefully remove children from the custodial (primary attachment parent), and give them to the non-custodial and usually abusive parent. This happens, even though it is known that to remove children from their primary attachment parent is detrimental and harmful to children (Dr Catherine McMahon). In at least 70% of these removals, the non-custodial parent has credible allegations of domestic violence and abuse against them (meaning evidence was before the court). Yet, still mothers and their children are sent away by Australian judges - unprotected. Domestic violence and abuse, in the eyes of Australian courts, are not seen as valid reasons to stay in the safety of one's home country.
In the majority of Hague Convention cases, it involves a male perpetrator, using the law to force an abused mother and her children into a foreign country, where he can isolate, control, and continue to abuse her and her children.
In 1994 the law reform commission recommended legislative changes to ensure that child abuse and domestic violence be given adequate weight during Hague Convention proceedings (Salter, 2014). Yet, still to this day, domestic violence and abuse are not seen as valid reasons for Australian mothers and children to stay in the safety of their home country. This means that for over 27 years, Australian mothers and their children have been sent unprotected into their own personal war zones - against our own recommendations. In one study, over 80% of Hague Mothers reported that the men they escaped had threatened their lives. It is not surprising therefore, that those who work in the field, report that many returned mothers are killed, 'fall down' stair cases, and have 'accidents' that render them braindead, within weeks of a return order. Yet no statistics are kept on these deaths and injuries. Exported sheep and cattle are afforded more rights.
It is unconscionable that Australia is still sending Australian children and their Australian mothers away during uncertain times, to countries overrun with political violence and war, and countries still recovering from the devastating effects of the pandemic.
Studies show that systems set up to support domestic violence (DV) and abuse survivors, become non-existent during pandemics and war. The Australian Government acknowledged this and consequently invested over 150 million in support of DV survivors in the middle of the pandemic. In light of this, it is just wrong that Australian mothers and their Australian children are being sent by Australian judges into known DV and abuse - in countries where there will be no support or protection.
Lack of legal Assistance
The legal costs of an abusive foreign parent filing against a fleeing Australian mother and child, are generously paid for by the Australian Government. By comparison the protective Australian mother rarely qualifies for Legal Aid under the means and merits test because her prospects of winning are so low (Saladino, 2018). Legal Aid does not step in for the more vulnerable party whilst the perpetrator is given specialised legal advice and an experienced barrister at no cost to them. Unknowingly, the Australian taxpayers are footing the legal bills for foreign abusive fathers, to enable them to weaponise The Hague Convention against Australian and First Nations mothers and children.
There are no police checks or repercussions for abusers activating The Hague Convention against their victims. Her Hague Story asks the Australian Government to pass legislation that requires a clean police record to commence Hague Proceedings, and enforces the return of taxpayers money if any violence or abuse is found during proceedings.
It is time for legislative change.
Shout. Survive. Support.
The Australian Government needs to pass protective laws to ensure that child abuse and domestic violence are seen as valid reasons for Australian and First Nations children and Australian and First Nations mothers to stay in Australia, on Country - within Hague Convention proceedings.
The Australian Government needs to pass protective laws to ensure that The Hague Convention is no longer used as a tool of systematic abuse by perpetrators, against Australian and First Nations mothers and their children.
If abuse is found during Hague proceedings, Australian mothers and their children must be offered sanctuary in Australia, where they are safe and supported by their family, friends, and community, and where they can heal from the trauma they endured. Perpetrators of abuse should not be able to dictate where their victims live through the Family Courts of Australia. It is important to note that around 40% of mothers in one study reported that they were coerced involuntarily into a foreign country prior to the birth. Many believed the abuser intended to use the Hague Convention against them after the birth, should they try to leave. Furthermore, if a mother is forced to have her baby overseas due to medical reasons, or world pandemics such as COVID, or restrictions on movement because of war - The Hague Convention should not apply. Moreover, The Australian Government needs to step in when Australian Judges fail to apply statutory law when First Nations children are involved. It is a grave miscarriage of justice that Australian judges are ordering First Nations children under the Hague Convention - off Country and out of Community, which will disconnect them from their Culture. Australia is a sovereign country. An international law should not be taking precedence over our sovereign laws.
Thank you for your support,