Jesinta Franklin responds to backlash over Cleo Smith post

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Jesinta Franklin has responded to the backlash she received over an Instagram post highlighting the 'disparity' between media coverage of Indigenous and non-Indigenous missing children.

Her post came after four-year-old Cleo Smith was found last week, three weeks after going missing from a campsite. 

The 30-year-old is married to AFL star and proud Noongar-Whajuk man, Lance 'Buddy' Franklin, and the couple share two children together, daughter Tullulah, 20 months, and seven-month-old son Rocky.

Jesinta Franklin
Jesinta Franklin responded to backlash she received over her post about the disparity between coverage of Indigenous and non-Indigenous missing kids. Photo: Getty

Taking to Instagram on Wednesday last week, Jesinta said she was sharing her comments because "we need to do better for all children who go missing".

"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," the post that was deleted on Thursday morning read.

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"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.

"I have no doubt the widespread broadcasting of information in regards to the case assisted the phenomenal efforts of the WA police force in locating this beautiful little girl and reuniting her with her family," she added.

A 2021 report prepared by University of New South Wales for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) found Indigenous young people made up 34 percent of young people who go missing.

Buddy and Jesinta Franklin
Jesinta is married to AFL star and proud Noongar-Wajuk man, Lance 'Buddy' Franklin, and the couple share two children together. Photo: Getty
Buddy Franklin with children
Buddy with daughter Talulah and son Rocky. Photo: Instagram/Jesinta Franklin

And a December 2019 report by ABC News found that Aboriginal people make up 17.5 percent of unsolved missing persons cases in Western Australia, despite making up just 3 percent of the state’s population.

Jesinta received backlash as well as support on social media for her comments, with the model responding on Sunday night.

"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."

She continued, saying: "I have posted about this in the past but unfortunately not many people paid much attention."

Jesinta Franklin Instagram Story
Jesinta thanked those who engaged in meaningful conversations in regards to her last post. Photo: Instagram/Jesinta Franklin

"I have had an influx of people reach out to me saying they had no idea about the statistics or that this issue even existed. This is not the first and won't be the last time I speak up and shine a light on issues of equality and injustice."

Former homicide Detective Gary Jubelin, who worked for NSW Police for 34 years and worked on the William Tyrrell case and the Bowraville murders has agreed that there is a disparity in the way missing children cases are treated.

"I understand what Jesinta was saying, that it’s important that all victims get the same response," he told news.com.au.

"I have to say in the past, with Bowraville, that it was clear to me that because the victims were Aboriginal, and also socio-economic factors come into play, that they were in the lower socio-economic group, that they didn’t get the resources supplied initially. The ramifications of which play out to this day."

Cleo Smith
Cleo Smith was found on Wednesday morning last week after going missing from the tent she was sharing with her family at the Blowholes campsite near Carnarvon on 16 October. Photo: WA Police via Getty Images

The Bowraville murders involved three Indigenous child victims, who all disappeared over five months from 1990 to 1991 from the same street after parties in Bowraville's Indigenous community. 

Earlier this year, Jesinta spoke to Marie Claire about raising her First Nations children.

"Obviously, I'm guided by Buddy, but I've taken the initiative to educate myself so I can be the best mum to our First Nations babies and the best ally I can be," she told the publication.

"I feel like I have a big responsibility to ensure my kids can connect to culture and can continue to share their history and be the storytellers for the next generation."

WA Police has since released a photo of Cleo smiling and waving from hospital in Carnarvon. She was reunited with her mum, Ellie Smith after being found in the early hours of Wednesday alone in a house that's less than 10 minutes from her own family home.

Cleo went missing from the tent she was sharing with her family at the Blowholes campsite near Carnarvon on 16 October.

With reporting by Gillian Wolski.

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