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Overseas custody

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29/92 28 July 1992


The Attorney-General, Michael Duffy, today announced that the Government had agreed to the provision of financial assistance to Mrs Jacqueline Gillespie under the Overseas Custody (Child Removal) Scheme.

“The purpose of the grant is to enable Mrs Gillespie to obtain private legal advice on the available procedures and the prospects of success to obtain custody of her two children who are now in Malaysia”, Mr Duffy said.

“Further consideration will be given to the provision of additional assistance to Mrs Gillespie under the OCCR Scheme in the light of an assessment of the legal opinion obtained by Mrs Gillespie and of the continuing application of the scheme to her circumstances.

“It should be remembered, however, that proceedings of this kind are private proceedings”, Mr Duffy said.

The OCCR Scheme is merit and means tested and the grant will enable the first test to be met by Mrs Gillespie. If Mrs Gillespie believes the matter should be further pursued then there would be further discussions with the family.”

Mr Duffy said the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was Australia’s preferred method of negotiation between countries for the return of children.

However, Malaysia was not a party to the Convention.

Over the past two years there have been a total of 85 applications for the return to Australia of children or for the establishment of access rights.

As the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Evans, has pointed out on a number of occasions, there are limitations to the action that can be taken by Governments in cases such as this.

The extent to which further action can be taken by Mrs Gillespie, with Australian Government assistance, will depend upon an independent assessment of the prospects of success to be provided by lawyers experienced in the Malaysian legal system in the light of all of the facts in this particular case.

The Australian Government is continuing to make representations to the Malaysian authorities to seek to obtain access by consular officials in Malaysia to the Gillespie children.

Mr Duffy said there had been calls for Australia to use the extradition processes in this case.

“I have been advised that the legal basis for such a request to Malaysia does not exist and of course this would not lead to the return of the children.”

Some concern has been expressed in the media relating to efforts undertaken by the Australian Government to prevent the departure of the children from Australia. The record needs to be set straight. It is now clear that, at some stage after Mrs Gillespie’s former


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husband obtained access to the children, he and they left Australia. They have subsequently arrived in Malaysia. At this stage, it is not known how or at what time either the children or Prince Raja Kamarul Bahrin left Australia. They may well have done so before any contact was made with the Family Court on Sunday, 12 July 1992.

From the time that orders were made by the Family Court requiring the return of the children the Australian Federal Police, in co-operation with other Australian police forces, sought to locate the children. The Australian Federal Police have made it clear that substantial

resources were devoted to this task. The Government does not accept that it, or Commonwealth agencies, did not take appropriate and adequate steps to locate the children. While we may never know precisely how or when the children left Australia, it is certainly not the case that any assumptions can be made that the departure occurred for lack of appropriate Government response.

The Government continues to press for greater recognition and acceptance of international arrangements to deal with child abduction. In addition, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade has made personal representations to the Malaysian Foreign Minister and the Government will continue to pursue these representations and argue for increasing adoption of the relevant international conventions which assist in the recovery of children in such circumstances.

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Canberra Contact: John Ellis (06) 2777 300