Mother issues plea to bring two Aboriginal children stranded in UK without passports home

<span>Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

The Aboriginal mother of two children who are stranded in England without passports – one of whom is already in the UK foster care system – has issued a plea to bring them home to Australia.

“I don’t want them to be part of the UK child protection system,” the mother said, in a statement provided to Guardian Australia.

“That is not right. They don’t belong in the UK. They need to come home. The first thing is to get them back to Australia. Australia is their home,” she said.

Related: Plea for return of two Aboriginal children stranded in UK without passports

The mother, known in court documents as DN, is a Wiradjuri woman from New South Wales. The children, a 14-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, were removed from her care in 2010, when the children’s court made final orders giving the minister for communities and justice sole parental responsibility for them until they turned 18.

The children were moved between multiple carers. According to court documents, attempts were made to place the children with family, but these foundered. It became likely that the children would be separated in the out of home care system when a couple familiar with their situation, who were British citizens, volunteered to care for them.

In 2017, the couple – known to the court as Mr L and Ms M – became their authorised carers. But in 2019 Mr L’s visa expired and he returned to the UK. Ms M’s linked visa expired the following August. With the minister’s consent, she travelled to England with the children on the understanding they would all return by October that same year. But their flight was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and they have remained in the UK since 2020.

Prior to the children’s departure, their mother sought to have contact with them and be returned parental responsibility, but the NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) under the previous Coalition government allowed them to leave the country and supported them continuing to live in the UK.

In April 2022, DCJ told the court “while it was preferred that the children and carers should return to Australia, the secretary supports the children remaining with the carers in the UK in the long-term” and in October 2022 the court decided they could remain in the care of their UK foster parents.

Their mother successfully appealed that decision, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction to make orders about children who were living overseas. She was awarded parental responsibility in December last year, but the children remain in the UK, where the eldest is now in the UK child protection system. Guardian Australia understands the foster carers also wish to relinquish care of the younger child to the UK system.

Australian authorities say they have been working to resolve the “incredibly complex” situation.

“[We are] working closely with the Commonwealth Government, UK Government, children’s family, supporters and advocates to resolve this situation as quickly as possible,” a DCJ spokesperson said.

“This situation is incredibly complex, involving local and international laws and conventions, and more importantly, vulnerable children.

“The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) is committed to ensuring Aboriginal children and young people are placed safely within their biological family, extended family, local Aboriginal community or wider Aboriginal community and culture wherever possible.”

A spokesperson from the Attorney-General’s Department said the Australian government was “working with all relevant authorities in Australia and the United Kingdom to ensure the interests of all parties are considered, with the interests of the children being paramount”.

The Coalition spokesperson for child protection, Senator Kerrynne Liddle, said she supported the urgent return of the children to Australia.

“First and foremost these are Australian children. The Albanese Government ministers should bring them back to sort this out in an Australian jurisdiction,” Liddle said.