An 36-year-old Indigenous mother is “shellshocked” after she was filmed driving down a freeway in Western Australia with her son on the car’s roof rack.
The four-year-old boy was spotted on top of the Holden Capitva on Friday travelling through several suburbs in Perth on the Tonkin Highway, which has a 100km/h speed limit.
After being alerted by motorists, the mother-of-six stopped the car and placed the boy inside the car before driving away.
Police found the car pulling into a nearby petrol station. There were three children inside – two secured in child restraint seats, and a four-year-old boy police allege was unrestrained.
In the following days, video footage from smartphones and home CCTV cameras have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times online, and also aired on news bulletins.
The driver, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged on Monday with dangerous driving over the incident. The maximum penalty on a first offence is a $3000 fine.
The woman appeared at a media conference on Tuesday. Gerry Georgatos, national coordinator for the National Child Sexual Abuse Trauma Recovery Project, spoke on her behalf.
He said the family was “counting their blessings” that the boy was not injured.
"This is an extraordinary event, it was a freakish event, it was something unforeseen," Mr Georgatos said.
He said that the family’s trauma was “compounded” by online criticism.
"I've read some of the comments – and that public spectacle that trolls sometimes jump on – and they are disturbing," Mr Georgatis said. He said that the mother did not know that the boy was on the roof.
“The mother did not suspect her children were not in the back seat,” Mr Georgatis said. “She had thought that the three were all buckled up.”
“It could have happened to anyone. Unfortunately, it did happen and it happened to this family."