THE mother of the ''Italian sisters'' has raised nearly $10,000 from online donations to hire an Italian lawyer to try to regain custody of her children, who are still begging to come back to Australia.

The family of the Sunshine Coast mother said on Facebook the donations had enabled them to fight to ''have the girls returned to their home in Australia''.

Born and raised in Italy, the four girls, aged 15, 14, 10 and 9, have been caught in an international custody battle since their mother brought them to Australia on the pretext of a holiday in 2010.

Although the girls pleaded to be allowed to stay here, six weeks ago a Brisbane Family Court judge ordered them return to Italy for the courts there to decide which parent they should live with. There were traumatic scenes as police dragged the girls away from their mother and forced them on to a plane.

Since the sisters returned to their father's village near Florence, relations have remained extremely tense, according to supporters of both parents. Although they are attending school and seeing a counsellor engaged by their father, the girls continue to plead to return to Australia.

After the elder girls attempted to run away, authorities suggested the sisters be separated to try to defuse the situation. Two girls were sent to live with another relative, and all four remain under ''constant supervision'', a supporter of the father said.

The mother's family said on Facebook the girls reiterated in a phone call how much they wanted to return to Australia and begged their mother to get them back.

''The constant pleas for help were heart wrenching, especially since the children report a great deal of duress and sadness because they feel all their wishes are still ignored,'' said one post.

Sources said that what the Family Court judge Colin Forrest had called ''the father's authoritarian style of parenting'' was exacerbating the situation. ''The father is not allowing them out of the house on their own, they're supervised all the time, they're in a secure school,'' a supporter of the father said. But he noted the younger girls appeared to be adapting to life in Italy better than their older sisters.

The father's lawyer could not be reached for comment.