Last week Hoda Sharrouf, 16, a daughter of slain terrorist Khaled Sharrouf, begged to be returned to Australia, saying she feared for her younger brother and her older sister, who is pregnant.
They are currently living in the al-Hawl camp in Syria following the defeat of Islamic State.
Asked whether he would separate parents from children if he were to win the federal election, Mr Shorten said: “We’ll work [through] that with the kids.”
He said he would talk to security agencies to “get all the circumstances” when questioned about whether wives who travelled to conflict zones with their husbands should also be allowed home.
His comments came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week that he supported allowing the orphaned children of Sharrouf to come home. But he insisted he would not send any Australians to Syria to assist in their return.
Mr Morrison said Australian lives should not be placed at risk to “extract people from these conflict zones”.
“But where there are Australians who are caught up in this situation particularly as innocent children, we will do what I think Australians would expect us to do on their behalf,” he said.
Save the Children Australia chief executive Paul Reynolds welcomed the Prime Minister’s comments but said
all Australian children languishing in camps in north-east Syria should be assisted in coming home.
“This is a tragedy not of the children’s making but of their parents’, who have manifestly failed in their primary duty to care for them and to make decisions in their best interests,” he said. “These children should not be punished for the actions of their parents.”
A Sydney tradesman who joined Islamic State four years ago has also issued a public plea to be allowed back to Australia from Syria with his pregnant wife and three children.
Mohammed Noor Masri said he was willing to face a long jail sentence if he were allowed to leave Syria but insisted he was misled into joining the group.
Benjamin is a state political reporter