Reunited family faces media glare

Sydney Morning Herald/May 4, 2007
By Les Kennedy

Found after missing for six weeks in a custody dispute between their parents, the three Yelland-Robertson children touched down in Sydney at 12.40pm to the glare of more media cameras.

"I'm tired," nine-year-old Matilda said in a frail exhausted voice as her mother, Philippa Yelland, ushered her, her sister Bokkie, 10, and her brother Barney, 7, through the domestic terminal of Sydney Airport.

Travelling from Launceston, Tasmania, with them was Sydney-based Reverend David Milliken, a Uniting Church minister. He was instrumental in exposing the fringe religious sect The Family, known as the Children of God, before police broke it up a decade ago.

Reverend Milliken emerged first from the aircraft and declined to answer questions as to why he was with the mother and kids. He has been employed by Channel Seven's Today Tonight program as an authority on cults and on deprogramming former sect members.

Ms Yelland and the children emerged flanked by security, the last of the passengers to leave the plane.

"Yes, it's good to have them back," Ms Yelland said as she and her children struggled through a media scrum. Most questions went unanswered or were met with inaudible replies.

"Did you know where they were?" she was asked.


"Have you spoken to your ex-husband?"

"Ugh, ugh," she said.

Asked if she intended to take the children back to Brisbane later today, she said: "I don't know."

She would not comment on whether she thought her estranged husband, Murray Robertson, 59, should be charged for disappearing with the children.

The family was whisked away in two white cars hired by Channel Seven for a prearranged interview.

Ms Yelland told the Seven Network how the time spent waiting for news of her children passed agonisingly slowly for her.

"Each second takes about one hundred years and then you realise, my goodness it's only half an hour more and it feels like it's been a year, and how long does this go on?'' she said.

Ms Yelland said it was disconcerting to find her children had grown up and changed since she last saw them.

"They've acquired new parts to their personality,'' Ms Yelland said.

"They are familiar but they are strangers, and that was a very strange moment.''

It was the children's personalities that Ms Yelland missed the most while they were away, she said.

And although she knew her children were most likely with their father, Ms Yelland said the lack of any news about them took its toll upon her.

"My heart ached all the time...,'' she said.

"I am very pleased they have now been found and that they are safe and healthy and things seem to be OK.''

Following the media appeals, Mr Robertson called the Nine Network to give his side of the story, then took a Nine reporter to the children at a house in the Launceston suburb of Trevallyn.

He later surrendered the children to police.

The children disappeared six weeks ago while on an access visit with their dad at the former family home at Hazlebrook in the Blue Mountains.

Their disappearance became public on Tuesday when the Family Court made the unusual decision to allow the media to publish their names and images, as well as to identify their father, in an effort to locate them.

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