Baxter detainee describes abuse of Cornelia Rau

Issue 

Kerryn Williams

A detainee in South Australia's Baxter detention centre has released a statement detailing the extent of abuse suffered by wrongly detained Australian citizen Cornelia Rau.

The detainee, who shared the Red One (R-1) compound with Rau, described an occasion when she was "crying and sobbing because the floor of her room was covered by water" while she sat "holding her teddy bear and shedding tears". The detention centre offices claimed that Rau was "crazy and sick and did that deliberately". But according to the detainee, "everyone knew that they were wrong because when you want to have a shower in R-1 compound the water enters your room and covers the room".

The statement explained how Cornelia was placed in a room with no curtains, and that when she slept naked the officers would turn the light on "for a long time from outside to check her" and were "talking about her body". Fellow detainees argued repeatedly that female officers should be assigned to check on her.

The statement explained that detainees were told that Cornelia "had no mental problems according to the psychologist's report", but that she "just pretended to be crazy because she didn't want to be deported". They were also told that she was "found among the aboriginal people" and was a "very dirty and dangerous" criminal. However, the statement explained that the other detainees "didn't believe what the officers told them because they knew what this system is based on" and that "everything they said was a lie". As a result, "the detainees treated her nicely and respected her very much".

When Rau was cold, the officers refused to help, so other detainees provided her with extra clothes. On another occasion Rau was ill and asked to see a doctor. The officers said "they would put her name in the doctor's list" but that it could take "more than two weeks and some times more than a month to see the doctor".

The statement described how one officer tried to convince detainees to write a letter of complaint against Rau, claiming she was "crazy and dangerous" so that "the officers would have an excuse to put her in the management unit to punish her". They refused "because they like her and she was not dangerous".

Once, Rau requested more time to finish her shower and was subsequently locked in for more than an hour. After she complained, "one of the officers ... struck her on the chest and threw her on her back on the floor of her room" and locked her in her room for the remainder of the day.

The statement concluded that Rau had a "very difficult time" in the compound and that "we all are really happy" that she was released.

From Green Left Weekly, February 23, 2005.

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