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  • Warning on custody battles after baby's fatal shooting
  • Brisbane Times
  • 09/07/2010 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: BeWitched ( 3 articles in 2010 )
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An eight-month-old boy believed to have been shot to death by his mother in central Queensland this week may have first been failed by the system.

As speculation mounted yesterday that the baby, Anthony, was killed in the midst of a custody dispute, his father Lenny Comollatti, 36, was undergoing surgery in hospital for a gunshot wound to his stomach.

His mother, 22-year-old Jade Quilligan, died in hospital on Tuesday night after crashing a ute moments after the double shooting.

It is believed the young mother may have shot herself before the accident, which occurred 10 kilometres from her Gracemere home.

Barbara Holborow, member of the National Council for Children Post-Separation, declined to comment specifically on the Rockhampton tragedy.

But she said more children would fall victim to bitter custody battles as a result of the nation’s family law system.

Ms Holborow said parents involved in custody disputes were forced to wait for more than three months for necessary counselling under the court system.

"By then there is an explosion ... in some cases a fatal one," she said.

Earlier this year, a Queensland mother was sentenced to life behind bars for the gassing murders of her two children and the attempted murder of her teenage son.

The woman, who cannot be named, was involved in a custody battle with the children’s father, her ex-husband, at the time.

Also this year, an Australian woman attempted suicide after allegedly drowning her two young children in a bathtub in her home in Canada during a custody battle with her estranged husband.

Ms Holborow said the notion that "mother's milk is best" was entrenched in the family law system.

The former Children’s Court judge called for counsellors to be made readily available to parents and children involved in a divorce proceeding or a custody dispute.

"We need to help these people calm down and rationally look at the position that they’re in and look at what is in the best interest of the child or children," Ms Holborow said.

"We should have experienced counsellors within the Family Court system, and in a sufficient number so that someone does not have to wait three months for an appointment.

"Everybody should be represented legally; the mother, the father, and the child or the children."

Her call for action coincided with the release yesterday of a major study commissioned by the federal Attorney-General, which demonstrated the need for a major overhaul of the family law system.

The study, co-authored by Thea Brown, a professor of social work at the University of Melbourne, surveyed 1121 adults and children affected by family violence and family law.

It found women and men encountered disbelief at all points of the system about the violence they had experienced.

Once in court, they believed their accounts were "ignored, minimised or sometimes accepted but put to one side in the ultimate decision" about children’s residence.

Last year the family of four-year-old Darcey Freeman, who was allegedly thrown by her father from Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge, called for the reform in the family court system.

"For the past two years, the various authorities have been made aware of our fear for the safety of the children and unfortunately no one would listen," Darcey’s uncle, Tim Barnes said.

"We feel the judicial system has failed our family and will continue to fail other families until someone in authority starts to take action."

Ms Holborow said counselling needed to be initiated as soon as parents lodged a dispute.

Without action, she said, more children would be killed.

"Even if that doesn’t occur we are going to see more traumatised children," she said.


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