The family of four sisters in an international custody dispute has been given fresh hope they will be allowed to stay in Australia pending another legal challenge.
A Family Court judge is expected to decide later on Thursday whether to grant an application for a stay of his original order that the girls return to Italy.
A stay would allow the sisters, aged nine to 15, to remain in Australia until a challenge to the original court order is heard.
That could be as soon as September 27.
The girls attracted national media attention in May when they went into hiding to avoid the order to have a custody dispute between their parents settled in Italy.
The sisters, who hold dual Italian-Australian citizenship, travelled to Australia with their mother in 2010 for a one-month holiday and have remained here since.
The Queensland Department of Communities is arguing they should be returned.
Before a packed court, crown barrister Murray Green said the matter had gone on long enough and was damaging Australia’s reputation overseas.
“There comes a time that enough is enough,” he told the court.
He added that a High Court decision last week to dismiss a claim the girls had been denied procedural fairness appeared to back the original order for them to return.
But the judge said it appeared the girls’ situation had become more stressful since his original decision.
He said he was concerned about the future, not the past, before adjourning to consider an affidavit from the girl’s father.
Outside the court the sisters’ maternal aunt said she was very hopeful of a favourable decision.
“It seems (the judge) appreciates the need for the children to be able to be heard,” she told reporters.
The hearing will resume shortly.