Cornelia Rau case shows need for independent psychiatrists' Baxter access

Project SafeCom Inc.
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Western Australia 6312
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Cornelia Rau case shows need for independent psychiatrists' Baxter access

Media Release
Monday February 7 2005 6:30am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"This week, the Minister responsible for asylum seekers and detainees as well as for Australian Indigenous people, should bow her head in shame if not in disgrace: it was exactly those two population groups she is supposed to serve on behalf of Australians, who brought Cornelia Rau's case out of the secrecy of the government-run dungeons into the public arena.

"First, it was Aboriginal people in Queensland who could spot 'a mile away' that Cornelia had a mental condition, while detainees in the Baxter detention centre carried oversize t-shirts that covered up a Cornelia who took her clothes off when she was let out of her maximum isolation cell for a few hours each day".

"The statement issued this weekend by Senator Amanda Vanstone for the Immigration Department, declaring that Cornelia Rau underwent psychiatric assessment while held in the Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre and was not suffering a mental illness is an indictment on the Minister: Cornelia was in the care of DIMIA while this assessment was conducted.

"It seems that Indigenous people as well as the long-term detainees, many of whom are on the verge of a mental breakdown themselves, have more sense of what constitutes a mental illness than Vanstone's so-called 'experts'.

"The events surrounding Cornelia Rau confirm that the repeated calls for independent medical access and psychiatric assessments by for example Dr Louise Newman, spokesperson for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, assessments made by professionals who are unencumbered by government interests or the agenda of covering up the shocking conditions in detention centres such as Baxter that lead to mental breakdowns in the first place, are sorely needed.

"This government stops the United Nations from having a look-in at its detention centres. It forbids Amnesty International from 'uncontrolled' visits. It forbids journalists, who serve "the public's right to know", from freely entering its hell-holes, unless it can 'sanitize' those visits. Now, the public had another opportunity of piecing a story together about what shonky affairs go on inside its detention centres".

"There have been nine deaths as a result of Australia's detention centre policies in the last couple of years. Dozens of detainees, many of them Iranians, hover on the verge of mental illness. In December, during the Iranians' hunger strikes, Dr Louise Newman called Baxter a de facto psychiatric hospital.

"Time has come for the Minister and the government to hand over the key of the hell holes to doctors and psychiatrists who are qualified, and to those who are not interested in cover-ups.

"We may then also find other people we don't know anything about, such as overseas and Asian students with limited English language skills, who innocently breached their visa conditions, and who have been thrown into these dungeons by the Minister, and we would like to know how many there are, and how long they are there, and in what conditions they are held."

For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

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