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It’s been 5 years since Sally Faulkner's two children were taken from her. This is her life now.

Earlier this month, a pair of explosions sent a billowing wave of destruction through the city of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. At last count, almost 200 people have died. 

Nearly 9,000 miles away, Sally Faulkner – who was thrown into the public eye in 2016 when 60 Minutes tried to recover her children in Beirut – woke to the breaking news in her Brisbane home. 

As the sun rose, her heart sank. Despite her desperate efforts, she hasn’t been able to contact them for four years. 

She didn’t know if they were dead or alive. 

Sally Faulkner's eldest children, Lahela and Noah. Image: Instagram. 

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Lahela, nine, and Noah, seven, live in Beirut with their father, Ali Elamine. In 2015, he took their children on a holiday to visit his parents. The next Sally heard was a Skype call when he informed her that “plans had changed. Lahela and Noah aren’t coming back to you. They’re staying here with me.”

Sally attempted to retrieve her kids with the help of a child recovery agency called CARI. Channel Nine’s flagship news program 60 Minutes offered to pay for the recovery in return for exclusive coverage of the story.

On April 6, 2016, the child recovery attempt took place, with Sally briefly being reunited with her two children before a police hunt ensued and she surrendered. Her children were returned to the custody of their father, and Sally and members of the 60 Minutes crew, including seasoned reporter Tara Brown, were briefly detained before charges were dropped and they returned to Australia. The incident made worldwide headlines. 

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Watch: Sally Faulkner on the moment her kids were torn away from her in Beirut. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia

Now, in light of the recent Beirut explosion, Mamamia reached out to Sally Faulkner for an interview on what her life looks like four years on from the failed recovery attempt. Due to legal reasons, she cannot do interviews - she hasn’t spoken to media since 2016, the year of the attempted recovery. 

Instead, we were able to speak to her close friend Melanie.

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Since 2016, Sally has had no contact with her children. All she has is hope.

“Every single day she is still thinking about Lahela and Noah,” Melanie shares with Mamamia

“All she can do is take it day by day and just hold on to the love that she has for her children, and remember that they love her as well.”

Thankfully, within hours of the deadly blast in Beirut, she was informed by a contact that they were unharmed by the explosion. She understands that they were in the mountains with their grandparents when the blast took place. 

A photo of Sally's two eldest children, Lahela and Noah. Image: Instagram. 

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So is she any closer to retrieving her children today, than she was four years ago?

“It is hard to say because we really don't know. I would hope so. But it's just such a difficult time at the moment with the pandemic and with the explosion and with the uncertainty of what's going on in Lebanon.”

Indeed, the pandemic has provided “just another added layer of being separated”. 

Since Lebanon is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, which prevents children from being abducted and kept from the custodial parent, Sally is left with few legal options.

“She's just really hoping that her ex-husband will reach out and they can work something out moving forwards.”

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Sally now has three more children, all of whom are under five. 

Currently on maternity leave, Sally lives with her fiancé, Brendan, and their three kids - Iylah, three months old, Izac, two years old, and Eli, four.  

Melanie describes Sally as a “really loving, fun and attentive mother”.

Sally Faulkner with her fiancé, Brendan, and their three kids - Iylah, three months old, Izac, two years old, and Eli, four.  Image: Supplied. 

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Becoming a mother to her three younger children has, of course, been a joy. But she does live with an element of fear. She worries Lahela and Noah “will think they’ve been replaced when they haven’t,” Melanie explains. 

All over her house are photos of them, and four-year-old Eli has a growing understanding of his older siblings overseas. 

“He doesn't know what's really happened, but he knows that he's got an older sister and an older brother, and he often talks about them.”

Sally’s Instagram is just one outlet through which she expresses her unconditional love for Lahela and Noah. It is awash with photos of her children, and some of the memories she holds dear of when they lived in Australia with her. 

Last week, Sally shared to Instagram how she manages to find strength amid the sadness.

“Being forced to leave Lahela and Noah in Lebanon, was definitely my rock bottom,” Sally reflected in a post to her nearly 20,000 Instagram followers. 

“One day when I was struggling to even get out of bed I looked in the mirror and told myself that I could choose to let the pain consume me and cut myself off from the world, or I could learn to appreciate what I still have…

She continued: “If you see me smiling it’s not because I’ve forgotten my children, or moved on. Nobody can ever move on from a devastating event that changes your entire world.”






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Being forced to leave Lahela and Noah in Lebanon, was definitely my rock bottom. One day when I was struggling to even get out of bed I looked in the mirror and told myself that I could choose to let the pain consume me and cut myself off from the world, or I could learn to appreciate what I still have. Yes I lost a lot, those two beautiful children were my entire world, but I still have my life and I still have my health, something that not everyone is blessed with. So if you see me smiling it’s not because I’ve forgotten my children, or moved on. Nobody can ever move on from a devastating event that changes your entire world. I smile because I’ve taught myself to appreciate what I still have left. I smile because I know that no one can ever take away from me the love that I have for Lahela and Noah. It took years to become stronger, lots of sleepless nights and days of loneliness despite being surrounded by family and friends. This week has been extremely difficult, even after finding out that they were safe after the terrible tragedy that unfolded in Beirut. I have been worried sick about them. It’s a never ending journey of anguish which unfolds daily in my heart and my head. I’ve survived because I made that choice a few years ago. I’ll always be waiting with my arms open wide for them to come home. And the thought of that moment alone, is another reason to smile...

A post shared by  Sal (@sally_a_faulkner) on

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Sally explained that she focuses her energy on what she can control, including how much she loves her Lahela and Noah. 

“It took years to become stronger, lots of sleepless nights and days of loneliness despite being surrounded by family and friends.” 

This week in particular, Sally explained, has been extremely difficult in the wake of the tragedy in Beirut. 

“I have been worried sick about them.

“It’s a never ending journey of anguish which unfolds daily in my heart and my head. I’ve survived because I made that choice a few years ago.”

Listen: Sally Faulkner's 2016 interview with Mia Freedman on the No Filter podcast. Post continues below. 

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Throughout Sally’s journey, hundreds of people have reached out asking how to help. 

“We've tried petitioning the government to help, we've raised funds to help with legal proceedings… But aside from that, there's not a lot,” Melanie explains. 

There is one thing, though, that isn’t helpful. And that’s sending angry or abusive messages to Sally’s ex-husband, Ali. 

“Sally just wants peace in that regard. She doesn’t want her kids reading nasty things about their father… he’s still their dad at the end of the day and she knows the kids love him.”

Ultimately, for Sally, it’s now a waiting game. 

And as she shared last week, she’ll be waiting with her “arms open wide for them to come home”.

“And the thought of that moment alone, is another reason to smile…”

Feature image: Instagram/@sally_a_faulkner.


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