By JR on Wednesday, April 04, 2012
A MOTHER with a troubled past has won access to her daughter, 2, after a court ruled concerns for the girl's safety had to be balanced against her right to know her indigenous culture.
The girl has been cared for by her non-Aboriginal father since she was five months old, after her Aboriginal mother was admitted to hospital with drug-induced psychosis.
Three other children of the woman, who has a history of drug abuse, violence and mental illness, live with a previous partner and his family.
"(The father) continues to hold many concerns about the mother's mental health and her propensity to abuse a wide variety of substances ... to help her deal with stresses and problems in her life," the Federal Magistrates Court said. "He believes the mother has a flawed level of insight into the responsibilities of being a parent.
"More importantly, he is fearful there will always remain the possibility the mother will have a relapse of her mental illness and this (could) pose a significant threat to (the girl's) wellbeing, both in a psychological and physical sense."
The mother argued the father was once also a heavy user of cannabis, and was "controlling" and had used a family violence order to shut her out of her girl's life.
The court ordered the mother have access to her daughter for four days a month, rising to six days when she turns three.
Magistrate Stewart Brown said he had reservations about the stability of the mother's home and the durability of her recovery from substance abuse.
"The essential nub of the case is how best to balance (the girl's) need for security and safety ... with her right to maintain and enjoy strong cultural connections to the indigenous peoples to whom she is matrilineally related," Mr Brown said.
"The mother ... argues that (the girl), as an Aboriginal child, needs to be with other relatives who similarly identify, so she can be exposed to strong role models who will assist (her) to understand who she is culturally. "Given the contemporary history of this country, these are significant and compelling concerns."
Mr Brown said changes to family law in 2006 recognised racism was prevalent, particularly towards Aborigines.