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Bridge girl's family points finger at authori -

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Reporter: Simon Lauder

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The family of a little girl alleged to have been thrown from Melbourne's West
Gate Bridge last week has accused authorities and the judicial system of failing to protect her.

The father of four-year-old Darcey Freeman is due to appear in court in May, charged with murder.
The girl's uncle says authorities knew of fears for her safety for two years but did not listen.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: It's been a week since the death of Darcey Freeman shocked Melbourne. Now the family
has released a statement through her uncle Tim Barnes.

TIM BARNES: We would like to say on behalf of our sister, her two boys and our family that we all
feel an extreme sense of loss and emptiness. We're in deep mourning over this tragic event. We are
fortunate to have the support of our family and friends to help us through these trying times.

SIMON LAUDER: The little girl survived the 60-metre fall into the Yarra River but died in hospital
nearly five hours later. Tim Barnes has acknowledged the strong public reaction to the tragedy and
paid tribute to those who tried to save her life.

TIM BARNES: Our family has been overwhelmed by the public support shown to us from around the
world. We wish to thank the public for their heartfelt sympathy and well wishes.

We would also like to take this opportunity to specifically thank the Victorian Police and the
staff of the Royal Children's Hospital. Every single person involved has been simply wonderful.
Words cannot express our appreciation for the wonderful care given to Darcey during her final
hours.

SIMON LAUDER: But there's no praise for the un-named authorities who Mr Barnes says should have
acted much earlier to help prevent the situation.

TIM BARNES: For the past two years the various authorities have been made aware of our fear for the
safety of the children and unfortunately no one would listen. We feel the judicial system has
failed our family and will continue to fail other families until someone in authority starts to
take action.

SIMON LAUDER: The statement has drawn this reaction from the vice-president of the Law Institute of
Victoria Caroline Counsel, who is also a family law specialist.

CAROLINE COUNSEL: I actually think it's the inherent nature of the court system to raise problems
for families rather than resolve problems for families. And we at the Law Institute have been
grappling with better ways and have been trying to encourage both members of our profession and
also get the word out there to the public that there are better ways for families to separate.

The problem with the judicial system it's a bit like a river. The counsellors, the psychologists,
the judges the barristers stand at the banks of the river and take a snapshot of a family. Now
families, like a river, have a beginning, a middle and an end. And I don't think people necessarily
are best supported when that snapshot is taken because it's done for evidentiary purposes. It is
not done to assist the family. It's not done to assist the family move further down the river.

SIMON LAUDER: Caroline Counsel says the court system is a pressure cooker for all concerned and
people are often unprepared for that. She says the Law Institute is promoting an alternative called
'collaborative law'.

CAROLINE COUNSEL: Where the counsellors are there for therapeutic purposes rather than for analysis
purposes. So it is something that is available but very few people in the community know about it.

The difficulty is everybody defers to what they know and what happens is the flea gets into the ear
of people and they say take them to court, take them for everything you can get. So people have
this idea that that is the only way to go rather than, let's go down a different path, let's not go
through the court system and tear this family further apart.

SIMON LAUDER: Darcey Freeman's uncle Tim Barnes says there have been public suggestions of a
memorial service for his niece and he'd like to see that go ahead.

TIM BARNES: We are in favour of an event being held at a park where children have the opportunity
to embrace life and enjoy activities whilst having fun with their families. Our family has also
agreed that we would love to see a day dedicated to honour all children taken from us too early in
their lives.

SIMON LAUDER: For a response to the claim that authorities failed to act in the two years leading
up to Darcey Freeman's death, The World Today contacted the office of the Victorian Children's
Minister Maxine Morand and was advised to contact the office of the Commonwealth Attorney-General
Robert McClelland. Robert McClelland's office is yet to respond.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Simon Lauder.