A Canberra grandmother is pleading for an improvement in the ACT’s child-protection laws as she cares for two of her grandchildren while their ice-addicted mother hides from her abusive husband.
The grandmother, who the ABC will call Jane, is in hiding with a four-year-old and a seven-year-old, while their 17-year-old sister shelters with her mother in a women’s refuge.
The father has tracked them down at refuges before, across three different states and territories.
“It’s scary,” Jane said.
“I knew that he threatened to kill my daughter and I knew that he had the ability to carry that out.”
The family has been engaged with child protection for two years and for the past two months have been forced to live in a makeshift home — a dingy dwelling with one bed for the young children and a couch for Jane to sleep on.
Previously, the siblings had lived with their mother in a Canberra house that was also home to a violent drug dealer and operated as a retail centre for illicit drugs.
Their mother has been an ice addict for years and on eight separate occasions the mother was so disturbed that police and drug teams took her away to the mental hospital — all in front of the children.
What has changed since nine-year-old’s murder?
None of this is new, or surprising for those who work in the system.
Last year, the ABC documented the failings that allowed nine-year-old Bradyn Dillon to be brutally murdered by his father.
His mother Rachel Jones spent the previous three years trying to fight her way through a system that ignored her.
“I spoke with the police, with child protection — every card that was offered to me,” Ms Jones said.
“I rang them on a daily basis, on a weekly basis. I was ridiculed, I was mocked.”
Jane said, despite the shock of Bradyn Dillon’s murder, there was little evidence of change in the almost two years since.
“Nothing has changed in the way child protection has been allowing the children to be in a life-and-death … situation,” she said.
The Government cannot discuss individual cases, but Children’s Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said child protection matters were extremely complex and fraught situations.
“There are often disagreements among the individuals involved, including between family members, about whether children and young people are at risk,” she said.
But she said progress was being made. A claim Jane refutes.
“It hasn’t stopped, it’s not stopping. What is this?” she said.
Since the ABC started investigating this story the authorities have offered the grandmother a house, but the plan is to house the three children with their mother in a domestic violence refuge.
“I’m just a human being. I’m just a mother and a grandmother and I just care about my family,” Jane said through tears.
“Nobody else seems to be able to do anything.”