Jesinta Franklin addresses backlash over Cleo Smith comments

Megan FrenchThe West Australian
VideoCleo’s accused kidnapper Terence Kelly faced court via video link more than one month after his arrest

Jesinta Franklin has stood her ground over controversial comments about the discovery of Cleo Smith.

Franklin faced a huge backlash after posting comments following the four-year-old’s rescue, saying the Cleo case would not have generated the same levels of attention if she was Indigenous.

She was criticised for her insensitive timing but the 30-year-old said she “won’t ever let the fear of what people think of her” stop her from speaking her mind.

“I followed the (Cleo Smith) case so closely, I was really invested in it, and the whole time I was thinking, ‘Just imagine if you had to beg police to try and find them, or you had to fight the world or you weren’t taken seriously,” she said.

“I just felt really compelled to say something when she was found.”

Missing girl Cleo Smith, 4.
Camera IconMissing girl Cleo Smith, 4. Credit: Facebook / Ellie Smith/Facebook / Ellie Smith

And Franklin said she did not regret her comments on Instagram, which were posted less than 24 hours after Cleo was found 18 days after disappearing from her parents’ tent north of Carnarvon.

“What matters is doing the right thing, being kind and having an impact in my community or the people around me,” Franklin, who is married to AFL star Lance “Buddy” Franklin, told Stellar magazine.

Millions around the world celebrated Cleo’s miraculous rescue on November 3, with many missing child experts astounded that she was found safe and well.

And it was the “outrageous” timing of Franklin’s post, which she later deleted, that sparked the backlash.

“Without taking away from the joy of finding a missing child alive and well, I can’t help but think about the disparity that exists in this country between missing children who are white and Indigenous children when it comes to the visibility and coverage of the case.” she wrote on Instagram.

“I have read so many heartbreaking stories of missing Indigenous children that garner hardly any media coverage or the social media coverage that a case like Cleo’s did.”

Days later, Franklin shared a series of comments in response to the online fallout.

“Thank you to everyone who engaged in meaningful conversations in regards to my post about the lack of equality in the visibility of cases of missing children,” she wrote.

“Confronting and often forgotten topics like this are important to continue to talk about. I received an outpouring of messages about the lack of action and media attention for not only missing Indigenous children but all children of colour.

“I hope that all missing children, regardless of ethnicity, have an equal presence in the media and that articles to come, give voice to this disparity and injustice.

“This doesn’t take away from anyone else’s story or pain, just highlights how important it really is.”

Cleo’s alleged abductor, Terence Kelly, appeared in court via videolink from Casuarina Prison earlier this week to face charges over her kidnap. He made no application for bail and will appear in court again next month.

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