Volume 9, Issue 7
Any avid fan of Channel Nine, or anyone with access to a news website, would have heard of the tragic outcome of a 60 Minutes stunt in Lebanon early this month. In a mother’s desperate attempt to regain custody of her children from their father, she accepted assistance from 60 Minutes, in exchange for some sick idea of a TV program. As 'payment' for taking part in said sick TV program, 60 Minutes arranged professional child abductors to remove this woman's children from their paternal grandmother and a nanny. And this was all to be recorded by the cameras of the 60 Minutes ‘news’ team…
The whole debacle put five Australians in Lebanese prison, where they still remain.
The 60 Minutes 'operation' was arranged despite the fact that the mother (Sally Faulkner) had an Australian Family Court ruling, granted on 15 December 2015, which allowed Faulkner to appoint police/agents to get her children back from Lebanon. Her mistake was simply not having it registered in Lebanon. As of 15 April it has been reported that the father (Ali El-Amien) and Faulkner were negotiating whether El-Amien would proceed with abduction charges in Lebanon, and what the consequences will be for their two young children.
This case raises a plethora of issues for anyone interested in law, particularly in relation to the role played by 60 Minutes. Regardless of our opinions surrounding the circumstances leading up to or following on from the abduction, my question is simply this: What about the kids?
As a child, I myself went through the Family Court system in Victoria. It is my first-hand experience of that system that inspired me to study law. In my volunteer work outside the law school I have worked on a number of family law cases. I am also an avid follower of the press and current affairs. Through my exposure to the legal system and the media, what resonates with me most is the ultimate disregard of the interests of the child.
Here are two questions:
1. What were 60 Minutes and Channel 9 thinking?
From a legal perspective…what a f**k up. They either have the most incompetent team in history, or they just don’t care. I think this quote from a former 60 Minutes employee says it all… “If they didn’t take risks they wouldn’t have a show”. But can a potential outcome such as this be simply called a ‘risk’? No. Ultimately, the management of Channel 9 has a lot to answer for. I’m no expert on the budget constraints of commercial television networks, but I can safely assume they have BIG ASS budgets to afford top notch legal advice in order to avoid ‘risks’ like these EVER happening.
Whatever legal consequences there are for Channel 9, they are well and truly deserved. Let’s also not forget the all-important Family Court order made late last year that found 100% in Faulkner’s favour. Did Channel 9 even think about the interests of these children? I suggest the answer to that is a big fat NO.
From a moral perspective…need I say more?
2. In 10 years when these two children grow up, how will their mental health be?
Presumably not the best. For me, I was lucky enough to receive significant psychotherapy from a young age. Whatever your opinion, the fact is that on Monday (7.30 Report, 15/4/2016), Faulkner (seemingly outflanked by her estranged husband’s negotiating power) has been forced to decide between two extremely grim options:
a) to fight abduction charges in a Lebanese court
b) to surrender full custody of her children to her estranged husband (despite having an Australian Family Court ruling in her favour).
The kids are the ultimate victims of this tragic event. Whatever option Faulkner chooses, both will be detrimental to the mental health of these two children. Especially if they are not given the appropriate support.
Although I cannot propose any solution to the problems I have raised, I think it is clear that the child welfare system is failing to protect these children.
Ella Burton-Taylor is a second-year JD student
Help De Minimis by becoming a member. It'll only take 20 seconds!
The rest of this week’s issue of De Minimis:
More De Minimis - other articles like this: