The case of Cornelia Rau may turn out to be one of those terrible incidents that provide a wake-up call and a catalyst for positive change. I hope so. No doubt questions on it will be pursued in Parliament tomorrow. At the moment, I am mainly trying to follow the public debate. I may have more to say on it later.
I doubt the issues will be detailed more poignantly than in the piece by Cornelia’s sister in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. We can’t make public policy solely on emotions, but we shouldn’t be blind to them either. This piece brings up sadness, anger, fear – yet also offers understanding, forgiveness and even hope.
Some of the SMH reader’s comments give a pretty clear picture.
And in a very stark indication of just why this sort of thing can happen, check out the scathing statement in this report by South Australia’s Public Advocate, Jonathan Harley, whose legal duty is in part to be an advocate for the disabled mentally ill. He says the attitude from department officials towards him was appalling — “Because they are not accountable to anybody I can honestly say … I was in private practice before I was appointed here – but in 40 years I’ve never dealt with such arrogant public servants in all my life.” It’s hard to be much blunter than that.
Lots of commentary on many websites too – it’s worth having a glance at some of them.
There’s a wide-ranging debate continuing at Troppo Armadillo.
Currency Lad recalls the old-fashioned (maybe even conservative) doctrine of Ministerial Responsibility, recalling the days “when a Labor member of Bob Hawke’s government resigned after inadvertently bringing a Paddington Bear into the country.”
Barista draws comparisons with Franz Kafka’s tales of being trapped in an absurd bureaucratic maze.
And it’s worth having a look back at the article that started it all. If that piece hadn’t been written (and published), Cornelia would still be locked up. I am sometimes critical of the mainstream media (and they are sometimes critical of me), but congratulations should go to the journalist, Andra Jackson, who did the work to pull this together and to advocate Pamela Curr who (as far as I am aware) was the one who did most to encourage her to write it – and of course to the asylum seekers who did most to blow the whistle in the first place.