It’s been known for years by some; confined, by law, within the walls of courtrooms and inside newsrooms. But now the rest of Australia has been told that William Tyrrell, the missing little boy in the Spiderman costume, was in foster care when he disappeared close to three years ago.
That fact is now public knowledge because the New South Wales Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed a small, Facebook group called Walking Warriors 4 Missing Children to publish it. It wasn’t a major newspaper, or a commercial current affairs program. It was a 11,600-member Facebook group.
So who are these Walking Warriors ? Why have they spent months working tirelessly, quietly to expose a three-year-old child’s state-care status? Why have they been labelled by some as ‘vigilantes’?
Their national page is littered with posts relating to the disappearance, murder, abuse or assault of young children. But none are so omnipresent as William Tyrrell, who went missing from the front yard of his foster grandmother’s home in Kendall, on the New South Wales mid-north coast, on September 12, 2014.
Mamamia contacted the group, but they were unable to respond in time for publishing. And so the precise motivation for their tireless and no doubt expensive advocacy for this little boy remains unclear, beyond their stated goal: to create “a safer Australia in every community for all our children”.
With member Allanna Smith at the helm, they have spent months in a legal battle for the right to reveal that William was in the care of the Department of Family and Community Services under the Minister Pru Goward when he went missing. In January they won, when Justice Brereton ruled that releasing the information would not have a negative impact on the case. And on Wednesday they won again, when the Court of Appeal upheld that ruling.
On its page, the group advocates for a Coronial Inquest into William’s disappearance, something they now hope possible as a result of this week’s victory.
There is no suggestion that his foster family or the Department of Family of Community Services are in any way responsible for his disappearance. Police have dismissed any such allegations.
William is just one of 20,000 children in out-of-home care in New South Wales. And like him, the identity of most remains protected under The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act - a piece of legislation designed in the interests of the "safety, welfare and well-being" of young people in care.