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Former Federal Circuit Court Judge Robyn Sexton speaks about the case of a family from country NSW that inspired her to set up Australia’s first Indigenous list in family law.

In 2012, a grandmother we will call Maureen came before Federal Circuit Court Judge Robyn Sexton, asking for sole parental responsibility of her six grandchildren aged two to nine.

The children lived in country NSW with their mum and dad, who had family violence, alcohol and drug problems. Maureen, who had experienced her own alcohol and drug problems, knew they were at risk.

Although Maureen lived in a two-bedroom home in inner Sydney, she decided that she would somehow cope in order to protect her grandchildren. Maureen told Judge Sexton that a crowded house that was safe was a better option than the children having lots of space in the country, but being at significant risk of neglect and abuse.

The case was closely managed before Judge Sexton for two years, with multiple mentions, interim applications, and involvement from the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) and other agencies.

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