The Minister for Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone, has announced details of an inquiry into the detention of Cornelia Rau.
The inquiry will be conducted by the former Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Palmer.
Cornelia Rau spent six months in the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre and another four months in the Baxter detention centre in South Australia. An Australian citizen, Rau suffers from mental illness. The failure of assessment and treatment of her mental condition by police and immigration authorities is at the heart of the controversy surrounding her detention. The issue of mandatory detention of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants has also been highlighted again by Rau’s experience.
Vanstone announced the inquiry at a press conference in Canberra. Facing persistent questioning from journalists, she repeatedly used the expression “with respect” when responding during the 40-minute encounter.
- Listen to Vanstone’s press conference.
This is the text of a media release from the Minister for Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone.
Cornelia Rau Inquiry
Minister for Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today announced details of the inquiry into the Cornelia Rau case.
The Minister said former Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Palmer AO APM, would conduct the inquiry.
‘Mr Palmer is a distinguished former Australian Federal Police Commissioner who has served over 30 years in both the State /Territory and Federal areas of policing within Australia,’ Senator Vanstone said.
‘Mr Palmer has also been Australia’s representative for Asia on Interpol’s Executive Committee.
‘I am sure all those with an interest in the Cornelia Rau case will recognise Mr Palmer’s breadth of experience within policing and the public sector and welcome him as an appropriate, independent person to conduct the inquiry.’
The Minister also released the terms of reference for the inquiry.
‘The terms of reference ensure that the inquiry will be as broad as possible, while ensuring the central issues relating to the detention of Ms Rau and interaction between Commonwealth and State agencies, particularly police and mental health providers, are considered promptly,’ the Minister said.
‘We will discuss with Mr Palmer the provision of appropriate mental health expertise to assist him in his inquiry.
‘While I understand that some in the community are suggesting the inquiry should be conducted in public, I have requested that Mr Palmer conduct his investigation privately, with his findings to be released publicly.
‘As well as protecting the privacy of Ms Rau, the nature of the inquiry will ensure the report can be completed as quickly as possible and that it is not used by those with agendas outside of the scope of this inquiry. I want to ensure that Ms Rau’s personal circumstances are not misused. Public inquiries always present that opportunity.
‘I have asked Mr Palmer to report to me by March 24, 2005.’
Terms of Reference
The Inquiry will investigate, examine and report on matters relating to the case of Cornelia Rau, including in particular the actions of DIMIA and relevant state agencies, during the period March 2004 to February 2005.
In particular the Inquiry will:
- examine and make findings on the sequence of events that gave rise to her being held in immigration detention;
- examine and make findings on the circumstances, actions and procedures which resulted in her remaining unidentified during the period in question;
- examine and make findings on measures taken to deal with her medical condition and other care needs during that period;
- examine and make findings on the systems and processes of, and co-operation between, relevant state and commonwealth agencies in relation to identification/location of missing persons and provision of mental health services; and
- recommend any necessary systems/process improvements.
The Inquiry will need to request the support and co-operation of relevant state agencies.
The Inquiry will report by 24 March 2005.