The strange story of Cornelia Rau

Cornelia Rau was a mentally ill German woman who was subject to mandatory detention in 2004 under Australia’s anti-asylum seeker laws. The Unknown Story of Cornelia Rau by Robert Manne, published in The Monthly, described how Cornelia (alias Anna) was found and finally released from the hell hole in Baxter, South Australia.

Since November 2004 one of the more active of the asylum seeker advocates, Pamela Curr, had become increasingly alarmed at the stories she heard about the desperately ill young German woman, Anna.

Curr contacted the German consulate, DIMIA, the ombudsman, the Immigration Detention Advisory Group – anyone she could think of – demanding action.

She circulated information about Anna on the asylum seeker websites.

A Fairfax journalist, Andra Jackson, became curious. On January 31, in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, the strange story of Anna finally reached the press.” – from The Unknown Story of Cornelia Rau by Robert Manne.

The strange story of Cornelia Rau has become the subject of the film to be directed by Cate Blanchett.

Blanchett is to play a minor role in the film. Could it be that she is going to play Pamela Curr? It is more likely that our Cate will play the lawyer Claire O’Connor referred to by Robert Manne:

“In the six months following the liberation of Cornelia Rau the moral legitimacy of Australia’s policy of mandatory detention was shaken. In the Federal Court in May, in a case brought on by Claire O’Connor, Justice Finn found that the Commonwealth had failed comprehensively to fulfil its duty of care with regard to two mentally ill detainees at Baxter.”

This is what Pamela Curr had to say when Cornelia Rau was finally released from asylum seeker detention centre in Baxter SA:

“(Mandatory) detention policies infringe the most basic and minimal of human rights.

Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the film footage of the brutal removal of Cornelia Rau from Baxter.

The film shows 4 men dragging a frightened Cornelia out of the shower, naked and pleading to be left to shower herself. She is then strapped onto a stretcher with a sheet over her and carried out as she begs for her teddy bear. No female guards were used, no explanation given as to why she was dragged out of the shower naked and no psychologist, doctor or nurse was in evidence, just brute force.

This incident becomes even more revealing when we consider that this “extraction” was done after it was discovered that Ms Rau was not an “unlawful non-citizen” (UNC) but rather an Australian resident who was mentally ill. The system was on its best behaviour during this pitiless and rough handling.

The reason for this sudden removal from Baxter was to ensure that Ms Rau was in hospital when the news broke of her illegal imprisonment in an immigration detention centre.” – Pamela Curr.

The Murdoch’s Courier-Mail published this story on the 2nd of May 2019:

Ian Curr
2 May 2019

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