Mother of the decade! Free Cassie and give her kids a voice and a choice
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Letter sent by email on 3,4, and 5 June 2018 to Queensland Premier, Ministers and Shadow Ministers for Child Safety, Justice, Police plus Director of Child Safety and one officer in Brisbane CS and one in Townsville CS
Dear Premier (and others)
I am writing to express my great concern about the welfare and wellbeing of Isabella and Bronte Watter who have recently been extradited from NSW and taken by the Townsville Police Inspector Dave Miles to live with their father. I am asking you to take urgent action to investigate their current situation.
The greatest fear that these children had was that this would happen: that they would be made to go back to the father who had so profoundly abused them and left them traumatised in the years before their mother, Cassie Watter, took them to live with her ‘on the run’. As you know, she is now on bail (wearing an electronic surveillance ‘bracelet’) and unable to communicate with her children. Worse still, the children who love and need her cannot communicate with her or with any of the other people they love including their grandparents Arthur and Heather Doubleday.
Despite the ruling of the Family Court ignoring all the substantial evidence of abuse, the positive psychiatric assessments of the mother’s mental health, and the AVO in force at the time against the father to protect the mother and Isabella, the father was granted custody by the Family Court.
The Townsville Police investigation into the claims of child abuse was so badly handled that the subsequent Crime and Misconduct Commission inquiry found that the police dealt with these very young children in a way that was incompetent and unprofessional. In 2016, these police were supposedly retrained and one resigned and yet until today Inspector David Miles who led the team is still able to arrest and extradite the mother, take the children from NSW and continue to harass the mother in Townsville. He also feeds lies and misinterpretations of reality to the media who lap it up obediently.
There is a quantity of evidence of abuse which was never revealed in Court and a number of reputable witnesses who were never got the chance to speak up in Court. The mother was on the stand for 7 days I believe and the father for about half a day and then the Judge awarded custody to the father – apparently on the grounds of the mother’s mental health issues. This despite 4 psych reports showing that she was perfectly sane.
After the children had been with the father for over 2 years they were malnourished and thin and still wearing the same clothes they had worn 2 years earlier. If you know anything about child physical development you’ll realise that this is not normal in western countries. They also had vaginal infections and anal bleeding. When Cassie picked them up they eagerly went to her car but asked “Will we be allowed?” They were scared ever since that if they got caught they will be punished although Cassie explained they’re not to blame…they felt responsible for the situation they were in after having run away from abuse. They felt that if they hadn’t spoken out about what was happening to them none of this would have happened. Cassie explained to them that it was never ever a child’s fault and nobody can tell them what happened to them – not Police not Child Safety, not parents or others. Only they – the children - know the truth, and a child is never responsible for an adult’s actions. The children’s fearful views were soundly based because when they disclosed abuse to the supervisors at contact centres – who had to report back to the ICL (Independent Children’s Lawyer) – the ICL immediately shared this information with the father who then punished the girls. The ICL was promoted to head Legal Aid in Townsville not long after her successful ‘independent’ advocacy…not for the girls though.
Will you as adults take responsibility for what’s undoubtedly happening to these children now? We don’t know whether the father has in fact punished them (again as he often did in the past) for having disclosed abuse to people, for having hidden away for so long, for wanting to be back with their mother – for who knows what? On his past form it seems likely that he is making them suffer now. Being cut off from everyone they might want to phone or see is creating great distress for them, I’m sure. They have tried at least twice to phone a close friend without the father’s knowledge. It seems he has found this out and I don’t like to think what the consequences for the children may be. The fact that nobody seems to know where they are or how they are faring, the fact that they are silenced and living secretly somewhere, seems to indicate that the father is not allowing them any freedom.
I am very concerned not only for their mental and emotional but for their physical state. Here is the typed transcript of a letter Isabella (or Jazz as I knew her) wrote in pencil without any prompting or coaching in about July last year. I don’t know if this letter ever got posted or received by the father. If it did, is there any hope that he would have recognised what he’s done to his children and tried to remedy the hurt?
Why did you abuse me? Why did we have to fight for our freedom? I know you could be a better dad, I’ve known this for a long time. There is still some good in you, I know there is. At night I have trouble sleeping because of what I have been through. I have been having nightmares and three out of four are about rape or sexual abuse and pediphiles.
I have to look around every corner and it makes me feel stupid when there is nothing and the only place there is that has no limits for me is outside. It’s just really hard because I don’t want to watch my sister getting hurt. Why did you do that to us?
Police propaganda – and it is just that - as featured on various media (the ABC Brisbane quoted here 30/5/18) contains many errors of fact: ‘Unsubstantiated claims that the girls were being sexually abused by their father’ when there was a mass of evidence (and presumably this is still available to you in the pursuit of “Child Safety”. Inspector David Miles alleged the woman (Cassie) “poses a threat to her children’s continued emotional and psychological wellbeing”.
How can this policeman - who took the children crying and protesting that they didn’t want to go back to their father – believe that the act of forcing them to go back to him and the resulting incarceration can be good for these children? Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention of on the Rights of the Child but seems to completely forget its obligations when the rights of children like these girls are ignored and flouted. In 2010, the Family Law Act was amended to include the stipulation that Judges should ‘consider’ this Convention. But it is not mandatory for them to do so and it’s quite obvious that children’s rights are not even being considered in cases like these. Jazz and Kel were very aware of their rights and I understand that they took down the children’s version of the Convention which was stuck on the wall and brought it with them when the police came to take them away.
Cassie had spent the 4 years that the children were living with her trying to build up their emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing. In many ways she succeeded in giving them as nearly ‘normal’ life as possible under the circumstances especially in the last 2 years when they had places to live that were relatively stable and got to know kind and supportive people. Of course, she wanted them to be able to socialise with other children, to go to school or take part in sporting and other activities that children would usually enjoy and within the limits imposed on the family from fear of discovery, she did an amazing job. The children were safe from abuse, surrounded by beautiful country and animals, chooks, ducks, cows, wildlife and much more and visited now and then by loving and caring people who did not know all the details of their situation but found the children and their mother to be delightful and interesting company. The children also had a dog, Stump, which the police came and took away the day after the girls were removed from the property. It is assumed that the dog is now with the children but how to know if he is and if so, is e a comfort to them or is he being used as a weapon against them.
There is no doubt that these children suffered from PTSD because of what they had endured when not living with their mother. They had frequent horrifying nightmares (and I believe flashbacks) - that’s what led Jazzy to write the letter above. Kel ( Bronte) had times when she just shut down and curled up in bed too upset to talk. Both children had physical problems stemming from the previous abuse including herpes and thrush and other things I don’t know enough about.
Kel had some resistance to certain foods having been forced to eat by her father and unless people understood that this treatment had led to a degree of trauma in this child, they might (as happened once last year) try to bully her into eating thus causing Kel much distress.
Jazz was usually the more outgoing and ‘stronger’ of the two but both children were amazingly supportive of each other and of their mother. As you may know she has quite serious lupus and because of the difficulty in accessing suitable or even any medical care for the family, she had to rely on intermittent supplies of medication for herself and the children. If Cassie had numerous Medicare cards – why not visit a doctor and other specialists? In the last few days I believe she went to try and get glasses for Kel who needed them and to a skin specialist for her own skin cancers.
Cassie educated the children using curriculum materials imported from the UK plus some supplementary material from Australian sources for history, geography and other studies. I felt that the girls were achieving results way beyond the usual academic standard for their age. Because she was the sole teacher and exam marker, Cassie thought that it would be beneficial for them to have the chance to interact with other people in a sort of educational framework e.g by having the children read to them. They had already been doing this in the time I knew them – reading the stories and poems they’d written themselves and we started play reading using the script of The Wind in the Willows. We had two sessions in the weeks before they were removed by the police.
My hope is that the children will be able to get any medical, dental or other care and that they will be able to go to school and live the normal social life of any 11 year old children. The most important is they must be able to resume contact with their mother and friends and their maternal grandparents and be able access counselling and other support.
Please treat this as an urgent request for investigation into the current situation of these girls.
It goes without saying that you are responsible if any harm comes to them from their present living arrangements.
Petition...This Mothers' Day please free Cassie Watter wrongfully jailed for 'child stealing' to protect her daughters from their abusive father. For four years Cassie has kept the children safe, educated them to high standard and tried to give them a 'normal' life. This has been very hard because she could not access health care or counselling services which might have helped the children deal with their profound trauma. Now she is condemned to jail and the children are condemned to suffer by being returned to their abuser. There must be a thorough investigation into the way Child Safety and the Police handled this case even if you haven't the courage or ability to take on the outrageously unfair treatment meted out to Cassie and her children by the Family Court. This letter was written in pencil unprompted and without coaching (which will always be the accusation) by one of the girls in July 2017.
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