Mentally ill Australian locked up in Baxter cells

Published: Mon 7 Feb 2005 11:00 AM
Mentally ill Australian locked up in Baxter cells: Urgent inquiry needed
Greens Senator Kerry Nettle today called for an inquiry into how a seriously mentally ill Australian permanent resident was locked up in an isolation cell in an immigration detention centre for over two months with no medical help.
In late November 2004 Cornelia, was presented to police in North Queensland by local Indigenous people who found her in a psychotic state with no identification. She has been missing from a Manly Psychiatric ward since September and had been registered on the missing persons list.
The police on hearing her speak some words of German apparently did not check missing persons but instead referred her to immigration officials who had her transferred to Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia. At Baxter she was locked up in the isolation cells without access to medical assessment or treatment while her identity was established.
Cornelia's family has identified her from media reports concerning her maltreatment in Baxter. She turns out to be a 39 year old ex Qantas flight attendant who has been an Australian permanent resident since she was 18 months old.
"The public will rightly ask why in Australia we are locking up mentally this case an Australian," Senator Nettle said. "Cornelia should be moved into psychiatric care immediately along with any other mentally ill detainees in this government's detention camps.
"I will be calling for an inquiry to examine how this staggering case of mismanagement and abuse was allowed to happen.
"How many other seriously mentally ill people are locked up in the detention centres?
"How many missing persons have been wrongfully incarcerated by our immigration authorities?
"The treatment of this poor woman is indicative of a system which encourages the perception of asylum seekers as lesser human beings without rights to basic care and consideration."

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