The District Court in a rural town heard an application for the extension of an ICO concerning an infant and a section 47 application regarding the release of the infant’s hospital medical records. The baby had extensive medical needs. The father, who was not present, was caring for the three older children of the family and was consenting to the extension of the ICO. A social work and GAL report were submitted to the court. The GAL who had recently been appointed was not available and her solicitor gave her instructions to the court.
The mother was present in court but not legally represented. When asked by the judge, the mother said she intended representing herself. During the proceedings, the judge offered the mother an opportunity to ask questions or address the court and asked her view on the extension of the ICO and the section 47 application. The mother consented to both.
The court heard that an ICO had been granted at the previous month’s hearing when the baby, who had medical needs, was discharged from the maternity hospital into general foster care. The CFA social worker, who was the only witness, told the court that she had concerns about the return of the infant to the mother or father’s care. “The baby is doing well but still peg fed. Progress is quite positive. Oxygen at night has been dropped down,” the social worker said.
Previously the mother had not participated in the care proceedings but on this date the social worker had picked the mother up by car. When asked by the judge, the mother told the court she had been separated from the father of the children for eight months.
A child-in-care review had been held recently concerning the infant and neither parent attended the review. It had been hoped to organise an access plan between the parents and siblings and the infant. The three siblings had seen the infant once in the hospital. “The father wants to get the house sorted before there is access at home,” the social worker said.
The GAL’s solicitor told the court that the GAL, who had been recently appointed, was at the early stages of her assessment and was making an application pursuant to section 47 for the release of the infant’s records from three different hospitals. “She needed these to inform discussion with social workers regarding the infant’s physical needs,” the GAL’s solicitor said.
At the conclusion of the hearing the judge advised the mother to seek legal representation and directed both herself and her partner to the local law centre.
Judge: “I’m addressing this to you [the mother]. You are in court without the benefit of legal representation, [which is] a mistake on your part. You can make an appointment with the law centre as can the father also. I can’t stand still. I’m making an extension of the ICO to allow the GAL to make her assessment and to assist the court with representing the voice of the child. My advice to you is to immediately seek legal advice from the Legal Aid Office [named location].”
The judge granted an extension of the ICO for another month in respect of the infant and granted the section 47 application for the release of the infant’s medical records.