Posts Tagged ‘Callan Park’

Schizophrenia; Care or jail-time?

June 11, 2019


Left to Right; Frank and Gerard about 1942!

Last night’s 4 Corners program on the ABC featured the story of a young man who after many years of abhorrent behaviour ended up killing 6 people. It traced his days as a young boy who went through school whereby according to the friends and teachers he already showed up as a boy who was different, with strange behaviours who was increasingly becoming more and more erratic and dangerous. At 14 years of age the school went into lock-down as he had taken detonators to school. He gave as reason;  to blow up the school and get even with his fellow students for picking on him.

James Gargasoulas was a troubled young man. The ABC decided to spend seven months on the story in order to point out that the tragedy not only could have been, but should have been avoided. It was clear that his spree of crime and violence was well known to the police and for some years. Nothing was done about him and one wonders why when the signs were so overwhelming and his behaviour so unpredictable that nothing was done to try and find out why his behaviour was so unpredictable. Why did it not get picked up that his mental state was in need of serious diagnoses and given some kind of mental examination and care? The only thing sure was the continuation and repeat of his unpredictable behaviour. He was diagnosed with Schizophrenia but none-the- less sent to life-time jail. He killed 6 people. It seems that the only place for mentally ill people who commit violence in Australia is jail.

This whole episode brought back the story of my own brother, Frank. He too was unpredictable and given to bouts of rage and violence. His behaviour too started well before adulthood. He too stood out and was different. His behaviour became unmanageable for my parents and at one stage after have stabbed one of my brothers with scissors was taken in and put in a mental hospital. This was back around 1958 or so, when Frank was just 19, and I was one year younger. His stay in that mental institution was something out of the middle ages or Bedlam. He would be wrapped in wet blankets to try and subdue him! Wardens would walk around with keys dangling from belts. I am just regaling memories of a period when I too was still a young man.

014Frank's birthday

(Right) My dear brother Frank in Holland, a few month before he passed away.

It was a horrible situation.  Our family suffered badly during that period. There was (as so often) a Royal Commission in the affairs of that Mental Hospital, Callan Park, but nothing improved. I am not sure if mental health has improved in the intervening decades! I doubt it. The episode of James  Gargasoulas is proof that mentally ill people remain undiagnosed and not given due care, no matter what happens, and what terrible deeds result from their unpredictable nature due to that illness.

At one stage my brother Frank jumped from a bridge and badly mangled his foot. After many years of bureaucratic battles my parents managed to get him back to Holland where conditions for mentally sick people already then were much better. For the rest of his life he was given good care and was no danger to others or himself. He spent a lifetime in a care institution where he would be managed  and looked after as well as possible. He would be given good care for his physical well being. He had an income for his cigarettes, clothes, or whatever he wanted. He had his own room with TV and suitable mobility equipment towards his latter years. He died almost two years ago aged 79. Below is a photo taken a few moths before he passed away. His life was not wonderful but he was given good care.

Frank could easily have ended up like the poor boy from Coober Pedy, James Gargasoulas now in jail. He killed six innocent people. It could have been avoided!

A squalid Relic and my brother Frank.

December 9, 2017

1200px-Mental_hospital_c_parkCallan Park

It is interesting that my self published book, titled ‘Almost There’: Fragments of a restless life, is getting some attention from some totally unknown quarters.

As some of you might know, my brother Frank passed away recently at the age of 78, in a Dutch Care Home ‘Atlant-Zorggroep, where he resided since his return from Australia in 1974. Frank was diagnosed when still in his teens suffering from chronic schizophrenia.


Prior to that he spent almost twenty years in the above mentioned Australian mental institute named Callan Park. This excerpt below tells you a little on how mental patients were treated there.

“By the 1950s, Callan Park was in many ways a closed institution. The 1955 Stoller Report revealed that significant overcrowding, bad smells, dilapidation and short staffing were restricting mental hospitals across Australia to purely custodial roles. Jess Learing explained that, while the patients at Broughton Hall used to ‘go to the pub… up the street… go to the doctor and get a script’ and  ‘go to the chemist and get the script made’, the patients at Callan Park Mental Hospital did not have such freedom of movement[i]. The poet Francis Webb intermittently spent four years at Callan Park. He proved enigmatic, even to his literary peers. He trod a fine line between respect and mocking humour. The poet Geoffrey Lehmann visited Webb at Callan Park in 1966. He recounted: ‘As we were leaving, the nuns produced some bananas, which they handed to him [Webb]. With enormous courtesy – he was always very courteous – he said: “Thank you kindly, sisters. I much appreciate it. Like the animals at the zoo.”’[ii] Webb felt inappropriately caged.

Gerard Oosterman was similarly disapproving of Callan Park’s gaol-like and ‘intimidating’ atmosphere[iii]. In his autobiography, Almost There: Fragments of a Restless Life, he claimed that ‘the one item missing’ from his brother’s time at Callan Park was ‘genuine care’: ‘The nightmare of Callan Park courtyard, with bunches of keys hanging from scowling wardens belts, wasn’t acceptable, nor the wrapping up of Frank in wet bed-sheets when he became violent. This was 1960 not 1860.’[iv]”

The Sydney Morning Herald was especially harsh about living standards and care at Callan Park.

I wonder if the care for the mentally ill in Australia has improved since my brother moved back to Holland. I very much doubt it. Jails still are used as de-facto mental hospitals.


Business and National Service in Holland.

June 3, 2015


With the first sex and my curiosity about it somewhat satisfied and the Maltese woman and gun in wardrobe fading into Oosterman history, I concentrated with renewed vigour into saving and planning to go back to Holland. Readers (if there are any) might remember I had a little metal box into which I saved as much as I could. Of course while living at home I gave all earnings to mother with the getting of own block of land and own house. This too had been achieved within a few years. The garage was now being used to rent out to other migrants which was handy to top up mum’s income running a very busy household. Who would have thought the take up in the new country had made such rapid progress in such a short time. There was mum now collecting rent, the Merchant of Prosperity and now a Rent Lord.

With Frank now coming and going, from the nightmare of what was Callan Park, at his whim, the atmosphere was often tense. The first sight of Frank we would all just scatter to friends. The impasse between what we thought Frank would and ought to finally get in care, and the rough reality, went on without resolutions. We either had to sign up for his permanent incarceration at a lunatic asylum or put up with Frank basically doing what he liked at the hospital, coming and going whenever and in whatever condition he might find himself in. It was absolutely dreadful and  remained an unimaginable horror, not only to Frank but to the rest of the family. Friends urged my parents to send him back to Holland. Things were supposed to be so much better and more advanced in The Netherlands.

This wasn’t easy done with a mentally ill person. He would have to have nursing staff to accompany him as well as my parents and how would Frank feel being left in Holland without anyone? A conundrum if ever there was. This would finally resolve itself when both Frank and my parents went back for good to Holland in 1974. They had enough. On hindsight that was always the best thing to have done. Pensions and healthcare had improved well above the level in Australia. The pension here was ‘means and asset’ tested. This was achieved in an office of the Social Securities. On top of everything my parents were asked to empty all in pockets and handbags on the table in front of the person dealing with my parents pension. My mother never felt so humiliated in her entire life. In Holland everybody works towards a pension, rich or poor get the basic pension. Not means test. Even today, a pension in Australia is regarded as ‘welfare’ or ‘hand-out’ as is unemployment relief, and single mother’s income etc.  and not as  entitlements that  civil societies work towards.

It might all have contributed to the fomenting and nurturing of my rich curmudgeon psyche but I really wanted to go back and try regain what I had left. This was a mistake. But really, making mistakes is a  good way of spending years in preparation for adulthood. I always felt that. Never regret a mistake is my motto. I don’t know how but I had saved up for a trip to Holland within a few years. It was still the old monetary English system of complicated pounds and shillings, pennies. The single boat fare to Genoa and then the train to Amsterdam was 110 pounds in 1962/63. The boat trip over was fantastic. Can you imagine; the orchestra playing jaunty music, games of tombola, the daily sweepstake and lots of young people on their first trip overseas?  I do remember the orchestra’s players being so bored playing the same music, day in day out, week after week, month after month. It was a job so much like everybody had to make a job. Is the chopping of steaks or the soling of shoes any better ( year in year out)?

I also wanted to work in an office and wear a suit and attache case. In Australia, especially during the first few years doing piece work on machinery and clocking up lots of overtime, I was wondering how it would be to go to work with something like having some importance. I don’t know why I thought this would be better suited in Holland. The arrival by train in Holland was without fanfare. There was no one greeting me at Central Station. I could not have expected it. Even so, I almost thought; can’t people see I am a returned migrant from Australia? An absurdity of thought. I moved into a distant uncle place who had a bed that folded into a wall but who was also dying with cancer and an ex chess master. He was forever berating his ex wife and expected me to cheer him on. I used to mix great lumps of mince meat mixed with hot spices. He loved it and even felt the spices to cure his cancer. He wasn’t used to chilli but red in the face he would eat lots of the spiced minced steak to the exclusion of everything else. It might well have hastened his final demise.

My old school friends I revisited and within ten minutes they were watching TV. It had all moved on and they weren’t interested in re-visiting that which had gone by. One of my friends had married and with two children gave me the sage advice and unhappily said ; ‘never get married.’ As is known today, I did and it was the best thing I ever! So, there is so much uncertainty about life. It is all such a risk and bobbing about on tides that can sweep you out as well as sweep you ashore. We do our best.

I haven’t yet even come to ‘business and Dutch National service. That will come next time.

Art and burgeoning Business acumen.

May 21, 2015
Me and mother 1995?

Me and mother 1995?

Frank came home and we all went straight back to fear and anticipation of more outbursts. My father did have contact with some doctors  at Callan Park. If we wanted Frank to stay there if he wasn’t well, there was a procedure whereby he could be admitted as an involuntary  patient of the asylum permanently. It also meant he would not and could not come home, even for visits. It seemed a very strange law but there was no way out if we wanted Frank to not come home when he wasn’t well. He would be there at the ‘pleasure’ of the Government. It seemed a very draconian way. Surely Frank’s freedom would be curtailed and from what we had seen of Callan Park, it was an asylum straight out of Bedlam. Many of the patients seemed like caged animals, walking up and down automatically. I remember my aunt taking me to a zoo as a child and seeing a tiger in a small cage just walking up and down, up and down. Many patients were deeply institutionalised.

We wanted Frank to come home when he was well and not when he wasn’t, in which case we could visit him. We thought that enough care at Callan Park would ensure he would not travel home when he wasn’t well enough. That seemed impossible to achieve. Officialdom and obstinate entrenched bureaucracy was the essence of Anglo culture with  the ‘don’t change if it ain’t broke’ reigning high at all levels, even today. This is in direct contrast to the Dutch ‘if it ain’t broke, break it and start anew, try and improve!’  My parents would never allow the permanent involuntary locking up of their son in an institute.

From then on Frank came when he felt like it, well or unwell. It was when Frank started to wander the streets and arrive by train to our home clad in his pyjamas that my parents knew that something had to be done. Home life became dreadful and all would scatter when Frank arrived in an unwell state. Dad and I developed an antenna that would transmit signals when Frank was about to become unwell and cranky/violent. Mum did not have such an antenna. She would fuss and exhort Frank to brush his hair, clean the room, tidy up or this or that. It clearly irritated him. We would tell her to just leave him be, but mum never picked up on that. She wanted Frank to accept her love and care. Schizophrenia does not adhere to giving normal responses.

It is such a baffling disease and experience. Frank would know he had misbehaved and would want to be taken back to Callan Park, yet again. At my sister’s or brother’s wedding (I have forgotten), we were all standing in front of the church’s steps.  The steps ran all along the churches entrance. There might have been forty or more people including Frank standing on the back step behind the groom and bride looking radiant . The photographer was almost ready to take the wedding photos. When we had all synchronised our positions and smiles, Frank all of a sudden pushed his brother Herman down the steps. It was always on the cards and had warned mother not to have Frank at the wedding.

Frank came to me and asked to be taken back to Callan Park. ‘Just put me on the train’, he said. He always felt remorse afterwards yet could not prevent his outbursts. I took him to the train back to Callan Park. Some years later I gave Frank a job working on a building side painting. He did well for a few days including singing his favourite song  ” I am just singing in the rain, singing in the rain”. The Greek painters thought he was very funny, you have a funny brother’ they would tell me. During one lunch and sitting on a ledge which had a steep drop to one side, Frank took a swipe at me. I told Frank that could not be done on the job. He said  “I know Gerard, take me back to Callan Park.” We walked back to his second home, Callan Park, and we said goodbye.

I have written before about Callan Park. There was a royal commission in 1961 and as Royal commissions go, a bit of an exoneration for all from the Private school boy’s clubs that generally manoeuvre themselves into lucrative Royal Commissions. Some many years later another one on Chelmsford and the estimated deaths of at least eighty patients under the care of Dr Harry Baily who committed suicide after the investigation on the deaths of so many patients. Dr Harry Baily was the superintendant at Callan Park when Frank was admitted. Some years later and married to lovely Helvi, I was phoned by my mother to go quickly to Callan Park, “your father is on his way to try and kill Dr Harry Bailey”, she said.  Helvi and I arrived to see my father hopping through the Rhododendrons at Callan Park in the nick of time.  Hot murder in his eyes. Poor dad, driven to the very edge of his sanity as well.



I now will try and get to happier words. While all this was happening I did a course in creative drawing together with a certificate in quantity surveying. I still don’t know or understand why I did the latter. A complete mystery, a blank draw each time I mull over that strange choice. I had worked at several jobs and knew how to save. One of those was painting and understood how to try and get my own contracting business going. Maybe the strange course was an idea to break into the world of contracting. In any case, I knew how to price jobs from bills of quantities submitted on my requests from architects and builders. I had letterheads printed with matching envelopes, always a good impression beating others who would scribble their quotes on bits of paper.  I soon had a good and lucrative contracting business. I made good money. I also did swinging stage work on the outside of buildings. I had no fear of heights either.

Another lucky break.

Frank and Callan Park asylum.

May 19, 2015
Callan Park

Callan Park

The firing of the shotgun and the commotion in the street resulted with Frank being put in a police paddy wagon. My parents were interviewed . They must have told police of problems they were having with Frank’s violence.  The incident with the scissors was considered serious enough and culminated with Frank being taken away to Callan park for  assessment. Callan Park was a mental asylum situated close to the City in very large park like surroundings.  It consisted of many  double story Georgian old sandstone buildings. It had a very high wall around it and looked intimidating when approached from the front. It would be Frank’s main home  for the next fourteen years. He was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia.

wedding photo of my parents with mum's brother and sister.

wedding photo of my parents with mum’s brother and sister.

A sigh of relief was washing over our family. The children came home from school without the fear and expectation of another shemozzle or explosion of anger. We could sit around without skulking away in our rooms, out of troubles way. Dad and mum were happy that Frank would now get care and attention from experts in a place designed for people with a mental illness. A cure or some form of action would be initiated and Frank would get back in charge of a life and return home soon. That must have been my parents fervent wish.  And, surely not one that could be seen as extravagant?

My memories so far are from between fifteen and twenty years of age, so the atmosphere and family life then lived is from that period which since has clocked up another fifty years. And yet, it will not let go of me. What is this compulsion and why can’t this episode let go of me? Is there a link somewhere that explains those events of much further down life’s river?  Were Hansel and Gretel’s white pebbles of  this period strewn already then?  Will an answer be there when  the trail has been followed to the end ?

It has to be admitted that my view of Australia hasn’t always been so benign and lofty as they should or could have. I have spent far more years here than anywhere else and am a naturalised Australian, born in Holland. So why at times, the chagrin? The naturalisation ceremony and oath were taken with  swearing allegiance to the Queen of England, which I thought odd as I could have sworn we migrated to Australia. But, the cup-o-tea and the S.A.O. crackers with ‘tasty’ cheese ( Salvation Army Officer) afterwards were welcome. It was a mass naturalisation ceremony at the Sydney Town Hall. It was a period when cinema goers were slowly starting to refuse and stand up for the National Flag raising and Save the Queen anthem before the movie. Some cinemas had a Hammond organ rising up majestically from below the stage. A  Liberace like suited and war medalled bedecked man would belt out this Anthem. It did not help and soon no one stood up anymore and this little irrelevant ditty was dropped. Oddly enough, Australia today still prefers the monarchy to a republic. If ever there was proof of being a bit miffed about Australia. Just contemplate that little contradiction!

mother on left. her brother and sister.

mother on left. her brother and sister.

The initial stay of my brother Frank at Callan park was short lived. My memory of the first visit to Frank at Callan Park asylum was when the brother to brother recognition was first starting to melt and flee.  It was a pitiful sight. He was so dishevelled and had trousers that were not his. They were for someone twice his size and without a belt. He could only walk by holding his trousers with both hands. The warden unlocked him with a large bunch of keys hanging from his belt. No chairs for visitors, no visiting areas. Just a large court-yard with no trees.

The demented and the declared insanely inebriated patients standing there as if all hope was now held by the unyielding surrounding stone wall, spoken to in gravelled voices. Frank said he had been held in wet bed sheets for hours. Later on we found out that that method was common to restrain patients. He was so very much not there and must have been heavily pilled up. I asked were his clothes were. Mum had brought some oranges which she peeled for him. Frank smoked a cigarette from a packet that dad had brought along…Was Frank going to be lining that court yard and become part of the stone wall? Mother had tears and dad was numb with shock but had to drive home with much silence in the car.

Frank on the left. Gerard with hair sticking up. In Rotterdam.

Frank on the left. Gerard with hair sticking up. In Rotterdam.

We could not get over that visit and the sun wasn’t shining much better with Frank not at home. The nightmare of Callan Park courtyard and the bunches of keys hanging from the wardens belt wasn’t  acceptable, the wrapping up of Frank in wet bed-sheets. This was 1960 not 1860.  Frank soon came home again.

Mental Health In Australia ( the forgotten ones)

January 26, 2011


Gerard Oosterman


You would not close down public hospitals leaving it to communities to heal the sick, mend broken limbs, perform open heart surgery or do lung transplants, would you?

Neither would you send them to doss houses or jail. Yet, this is what has long been happening to a section of our community, the sick of mind, the mentally ill.

Some decades ago, the closing down of mental hospitals and psychiatric wards were deliberately initiated. The lofty theory was that from then on, those people with a psychiatric illness would be taken care of by a loving caring community, run by loving state or local health bodies. Thousands were put into boarding homes, half- way houses and onto health benefits which then would pay for their lodgings at those ‘establishments’. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that this then allowed open slather on the unfortunate mentally ill.  It was also thought that, like magic, the mentally ill sufferers would somehow be ‘absorbed’ and possibly even ‘cured’. The reality is, they ended up in our jails or disappeared in the land of the forgotten. Some of those you might get a glimpse of when visiting the cop shop, their mug shots pinned on the wall.

The problem with those suffering from mental illness such as schizophrenia or the preferred tag of ‘bi-polar’ is that the symptoms of mental illness are not always so benign as not to need more than just a packet of tablets, a pat on the back, a bed to sleep in or a meal on their plates. I know, because my brother Frank has suffered from chronic schizophrenia his whole life.

Soon after my parents immigrated here in 1956, my brother Frank’s behaviour became increasingly difficult. My parents were no longer able to manage his violent outbursts. The potted geranium would routinely be thrown through the glass door, the scissors ended up sticking in my brother John’s side. He was subsequently diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia and hospitalised at Callan Park Mental hospital, Sydney.  His many years in and out of this hospital were a nightmare that continued to traumatise our family relentlessly. A true ‘Bedlam’ situation if ever there was. Has that situation after all those years changed?

Nothing would have pleased my parents more than to have had their son living with them. This was just not possible with five other younger siblings to look after as well.   Frank’s attempted suicide jump from Iron Cove Bridge Sydney was the final straw.  He was, thanks to the Dutch government, repatriated back to the Netherlands where he has lived ever since. His care is excellent, which we can only dream about here in Australia, but more importantly, Frank is still alive. I doubt this would be the case if he had stayed here.

The idea that the mentally ill would be taken care of without any professional well-run facilities or expert care was never a sound idea and was probably based more on saving money than care for the mentally ill. They often end up in jail for no other reason than that they are ill and cannot find the expert help they need. It is estimated that 80 per cent of the incarcerated are suffering from some form of mental disease. When judges are confronted by cases of violence or even homicide, and the offenders are mentally ill, their only, often-reluctant choice is for a jail sentence.

Our expenditure on mental health is much lower than most other comparable countries. No matter who is in power, Libs or Labor, our mentally ill sons and daughters are the forgotten Australians. Year after year, if not in jail, they end up wandering the streets, dishevelled, unbuttoned, and unkempt with their physical health as bad as their mental state.

I have never heard of people needing heart surgery or broken limbs ending up wandering the streets or worse, being sent to jail.  Why is that so often the case with the mentally ill?

There is a dearth of information that it is not only jails that are being swamped with the mentally ill. The emergency departments of hospitals are also overloaded on a daily basis by people with psychiatric problems for whom there are no alternatives.

My brother Frank is a lot calmer now and he has his own room with TV enabling him to watch his beloved soccer, he receives good medical care including regular dental checkups, podiatric care and most importantly, his medication is supervised. He receives his full sickness benefits which he can use as he sees fit. He enjoys regular holidays and he visited my parents accompanied by caring well-trained staff when they were still alive. I can phone Frank up and receive regular updates from expert psychiatrists and doctors.

It cost money but so does our love of wars fought in faraway countries. While some Australians have lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, I bet you far more lives are lost on our streets by our own Government’s lack of care for our mentally ill.

Gerard Oosterman is now a word painter and blogger of tens of thousands of very wise and/or whimsical but hopefully amusing words.

Mental Health ( you must be crazy)

January 4, 2011


Gerard Oosterman

Gerard Oosterman

The first time I became aware things were not quite right with my older brother Frank was at the age of 8 or so. The teacher noticed Frank’s beautiful handwriting. While the handwriting was in long up and down strokes, with swirly Ws and majestic Ms, the problem was not the beauty of it but the time it took him to perfect this lovely way of writing. No matter how he was praised and how we all stood in awe of his beautiful writing, the friendly urging to keep up with the rest of the class was ignored and he would take all the time in the world to perfect his writing. The rest of the class would long be finished and on the next subject while Frank was still writing his beautiful letters. This wanting to be perfect in whatever he undertook is what plagued him for the rest of his life. He was different.

Earlier on I remember walking Frank home from the Montessori kindergarten during or shortly after the war in bombed out Rotterdam. The Montessori school was most tolerant and considered a good place to start, however they drew the line at kids still doing number two’s in their pants, hence the day time walks home.

Frank on those walks home strolled somewhat strangely and would have his hands sticking out sideways as if he needed some kind of antenna system to guide him. Of course, memories of those times are unreliable and can only be a kind of indication on how I perceived him then so many years ago. It is however a truth as far as I am concerned even though it might have been different. Childhood memories are often vague and I can only state those memories with distortions and exaggerations a distinct possibility.

The next phase of my awareness of Frank was when my father was going upstairs above our living quarters in Rotterdam to do something with a knife. He had been driven beyond the edge of endurance by a woman who kept waking up my younger two brothers and a new baby by noise, day and night. Perhaps my mother had nagged my father to finally take action and what with war, hunger, cold, no food and tobacco but babies and kids, it was not just endurance, but also his sanity that was wavering. It was only one floor up and what the heck, he would show what a real man is capable of. Somehow, mother prevented murder and we soon moved to The Hague. It was a prudent move!

Years later, during 1961, there was a repeat outburst from my father in Australia but this time aimed at the Superintendent of a Sydney mental hospital. Fortunately, by then father had matured enormously and lost his predilection for knives. It was going to be a two handed job around a neck. If only my father had succeeded. He would have saved at least 25 lives by having prevented one hospital from developing its ‘deep sleep’ therapy methods.

Frank had been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia and been admitted a few years earlier. The big problem was that if Frank would decide to leave the confines of the hospital, he would come to us home. No matter how my parents pleaded with the hospital doctors to assess Frank if fit enough, they would or could not stop him from leaving. Many times he would walk about in danger of harm to himself or others. At one stage he jumped from the Pyrmont Bridge, survived but has a bad leg.

At home, when he was unwell, the police or ambulance would take him back and while we as kids could scatter, my parents could not and were abused and even held responsible for Frank’s condition and lived a life of trauma that would last till he, thanks to his Dutch Passport, was finally repatriated back to The Netherlands.

He has lived there ever since, in a home where he is well looked after. He has a reasonable social life with other patients, gets taken on holidays, has his own room and 24hrs care, included is good dental and podiatric care. He is made sure to take his medication and he would be driven by nurses to my parents each time they wanted to see their son. He is under the care of Dutch Mental Health Act and they have a responsibility towards him. They certainly would not let him do what he chooses to do like he so often was allowed to do back in sixties in Sydney. His life since his return to The Netherlands in the early seventies has not been at risk anymore, ever.

The situation of mental health here in Australia still seems to be in a time warp, proof of which is the total dereliction of care towards those suffering from a mental disease. The jailed Cornelia Rau in Jordan has again highlighted the baffling case of someone under mental health care being allowed to get so terribly neglected, even allowed to leave the country. There seems to be a contradiction when those under Mental Health Act are deemed to make decisions which puts their lives at risk for which they often have come under the attention of mental health in the first place.

If it was impossible back in 1961 to get my brother Frank’s illness to be managed whereby he would be as free from risk of harm to himself or others as possible, it seems nothing has changed. Cornelia Rau with her detention at Baxter alone should have been enough for the mental health providers to have taken more care and have follow up procedures in place.

Mental health care in Australia comes up with nice brochures in medical centres or public hospitals and lots of 1800 numbers with pre-recorded messages, with perhaps, at best, a couple of weeks in observation resulting in a prescription for Zoloft, but no follow up, no supervised residential care for those that need more than a hurried appraisal and a wave of the hand.

If I was in opposition I would block the $42 billion ’till at least mental health was given the support, finance and the urgency it deserves. Cornelia Rau, like my brother, have or had passports allowing compassionate care and treatment in countries more considerate and advanced.

How many with mental health problems have to suffer, chalk up our suicide rates, end up in jails, or suffer lonely and forgotten deaths in the back alleys of Australia?