Vanessa Amorosi testimony ‘cannot be relied upon’, says mother’s lawyer

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Singer Vanessa Amorosi was painted as a witness whose memory could not be relied on as she faced a court hearing in a legal dispute with her mother.

Then Joyleen Robinson took the stand on Friday to testify against her daughter and suffered from the same patchy memory.

Vanessa Amorosi leaves the Supreme Court of Victoria.Credit: Aaron Francis

The legal dispute over the ownership of two properties – one in California, the other in suburban Melbourne – bought through trusts established jointly by Amorosi and Robinson moved into its third day in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Amorosi was again brought to tears several times as she spent a second day in the witness box.

Under cross-examination by Robinson’s barrister Daniel Harrison, Amorosi repeatedly said she had no recollection or knowledge of bank statements, mortgage documents, financial advice and legal correspondence pertaining to the affairs of the companies she said had been set up by her mother to protect the income and assets from her singing career from those who might seek to take advantage of or steal from her.

Joyleen Robinson (centre) outside court earlier this week.Credit: AAP

Referring to a 2005 letter in which a law firm claimed it had been instructed that a property on Boundary Road, Narre Warren – bought through the trust Vanjoy in 2001 – “really does belong to Joy in its entirety”, Amorosi said she had never seen the document until it was shown to her recently by her solicitor – despite the fact she had been copied on it.

“In 2005, I wouldn’t have read this letter,” she said. “I would have presumed my mother was taking care of this.”

That was consistent with her testimony that she had placed her trust unquestioningly in her mother to act in her interests from the moment her career began to take off in 1999.

That trust began to unravel in late 2014, when Amorosi was forced to sell her American home because, she said, her mother told her that there were insufficient funds available to service the debt.

At the time, Llama, a second trust through which most of the singer’s assets were held, carried a mortgage of $1.2 million against multiple properties in Australia, bought with Amorosi’s earnings.

“I had a lot of assets,” Amorosi told the court, “and there was nothing left”.

Among the many documents to which Harrison referred, and of which Amorosi professed ignorance, was a deregistration form lodged with ASIC in 2022, winding up her touring company Road Runner.

That company was listed as one of the respondents in this case, which commenced in early 2021. But on the ASIC form Amorosi declared the company was not involved in any legal proceedings.

Making a false declaration to ASIC is a serious matter, but Harrison was more interested in using Amorosi’s patchy recall to again demonstrate that her memory could not be relied upon.

That is crucial to the case because of a “kitchen agreement” that Robinson insists was struck in February 2001 in the family’s then home.

She claims Amorosi promised to buy her the property at Narre Warren for $650,000 – money that mother would repay to daughter at any time Amorosi demanded it.

Amorosi claimed repeatedly and definitively that this conversation never happened.

“You’re saying you don’t have a clear recollection of how this document came to be,” Harrison said of the ASIC form. “But you do have a clear recollection of a conversation with your mother in 2001.”

Amorosi answered simply, “Yes”.

The property in question, an eight-hectare lot with a large barn-style house, was valued in 2005 at $1 million.

Addressing Justice Steven Moore, Harrison summed up his client’s case in simple terms.

“It comes down to two people who have a differing recollection,” he said.

“We say Ms Amorosi is a witness whose account cannot be taken as accurate because she has a poor memory. Her account of dates and the like cannot be relied upon by the court.”

However, when Harrison’s client took the stand after lunch, her memory proved equally fallible.

The Boundary Road property was purchased in 2005, she said – it was 2001. She met her husband Peter in 1999, and married him in 1995 – they met some time after 1989. The early peak of her daughter’s career was “2003 or 2004” – it was much earlier, about 2000-2001.

Asked why certain corporate structures were chosen, she said, “I would hate to say I know”, insisting she never did any more than follow expert advice.

“I’m not clever enough to set these companies up,” she said.

In contrast to her daughter’s evidence earlier in the week that the Boundary Road property had been bought without her even seeing it, Robinson claimed the pair had walked its entire eight hectares on a 45 degree day after Amorosi discovered her mother’s dream property was for sale.

Robinson was firm, though, that there was an agreement that Amorosi would buy the house for her, and that Robinson would repay the $650,000 any time Amorosi needed it, by selling her own home nearby.

When asked if she could recall when she discussed formalising the agreement with her advisers, Robinson said “offhand, I don’t know”.

Asked why she had sought to formalise the agreement, Robinson replied “I’m thinking. No, I don’t know, even though I think it was pretty clear what our agreement was”.

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