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Matilda Is Missing
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Matilda Is Missing
IN July 2007, a particularly bitter custody case came before the Family Court in Melbourne. A couple, married less than two years, was fighting over access to their only child, Matilda. Some of the details of the case were a touch unusual. Matilda's mother, for example, went by the name Softie. Matilda's father had an odd name, too: he was called Garry Gary. Both parents went to court with the aim of getting full custody of their little girl, with the other side being allowed only visits. As such, both were ordered into counselling, which is now mandatory. A Family Court psychologist, Dr Ian Bell, tried over several months to get them co-operate and come to an agreement for Matilda's future care. That process failed, and so a senior judge, Justice Francis (Frank) Brooks, was assigned to hear the case. As for Matilda, she never had to go to court, but she's central to this story, so let's take a look at her: at the time of the hearing, Matilda (Minty) Monaghan Hartshorn was not quite two years old. She had pink cheeks and blonde curls and a stubborn determination to wear a ladybug backpack, everywhere she went. She was out of her cot and into a big bed; she wore Pull-Ups at night but was learning to use the potty. She wasn't supposed to gnaw on the edge of her silky blanket because it gave her a rash on her chin, but it was proving a difficult habit to break. She liked My Little Pony and could buckle her own shoes. Matilda was the character around which all the adults in the drama danced, the innocent child that everyone purported to care about. She was also, always, the one most likely to become lost.
- Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
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