Tags: tabloid journalists

9 Feb 2005, Comments (0)


Author: Helen

Cornelia Rau is the Australian government’s worst nightmare. Blonde, pretty, in her older photos she could have stepped out of an episode of Neighbours.

She’s the girl next door. And the girl next door was sucked into the black hole of Australia’s detention centres, where the psychiatric deterioration of prisoners is kept – as far as possible – from the public.

HREOC and refugee advocates have been trying to bring the problem of mental health in Australian detention centres for years now. The stories coming out of Baxter and other centres have been horrible. So what’s new?

Post-Tampa, one of the most successful excercises by the Howard government and mainstream media was to portray asylum seekers in the camps as the Other. Slowly, they became a sub-category of human, not as deserving of basic human rights as you or me. Perhaps even non-human. Using the word “illegals” to describe them (none of them are on a criminal charge) has contributed to this, as John Quiggin and Jack Robertson discuss.

Psychotic behaviour caused or exacerbated by detention, such as anorexia or lip sewing, were gleefuly talked up by Liberal politicians, DIMIA officials and tabloid journalists, as proof of asylum seekers’ subhuman unfitness for life here. This was echoed in talkback and grubby MSN chat sites.

But Cornelia Rau didn’t fit that mould. She was the girl next door in Ramsay Street. And suddenly, it’s possible for the majority to see what happens when the girl next door is trapped in the surreal nightmare that is a privatised Australian detention facility.

Someone like Us.