Cornelia Rau Accepts Compensation Offer

Cornelia Rau accepts compensation offer

By David Crawshaw
Article from: AAP
February 19, 2008 10:16am

CORNELIA Rau, the German-born woman wrongly held in detention for 10 months, has accepted a compensation offer from the Federal Government.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans confirmed to a senate estimates committee today Ms Rau's lawyers had agreed to the deal.

“I can advise that Cornelia Rau's lawyers have communicated to the Commonwealth that they have accepted an increased offer of compensation on her behalf,” Senator Evans said.

“The terms of settlement remain to be finalised and must be approved by the (NSW) Supreme Court.”

He declined to comment on the details of the settlement, but reports this week suggest the figure is around $2.4 million.

Confirmation of the deal follows a three-year battle for justice by Ms Rau, an Australian resident who was held at Brisbane's women's prison and later in South Australia's Baxter immigration detention centre in 2004-05.

She was detained after authorities failed to recognise her mental illness and assumed she was an illegal immigrant.

Senator Evans said he had made it a priority to finalise the 247 cases identified by the commonwealth ombudsman in which people had been wrongly detained by the immigration department.

“One of those priority cases was to finalise that of Cornelia Rau and end the terrible ordeal she has suffered,” he told the senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee.

Former prime minister John Howard apologised to Ms Rau and Australian citizen Vivian Alvarez Solon, who was wrongly deported in July 2005, for their mistreatment at the hands of the immigration department.

The two cases were the trigger for a wide-ranging review of immigration department practices.

The settlement follows a civil action by Ms Rau's lawyers in the NSW Supreme Court against the Federal Government and GSL, the private operator that ran the now-defunct Baxter detention centre.

Senator Evans ruled out holding a royal commission into the immigration department.

Labor in 2005 had called for a royal commission to examine immigration bungles after the wrongful detention of Ms Rau and deportation of Vivian Alvarez Solon.

But Senator Evans said he was now satisfied that progress was being made towards cultural change in the department, stemming from the Palmer and Comrie reports commissioned by the Howard government.

“There was no election commitment to a royal commission into the Department of Immigration,” Senator Evans said.

“I think most of those commentaries were made in relation to … the very serious concern over the reports of the handling of the Vivian Solon and Cornelia Rau cases.”

Senator Evans acknowledged Labor's former immigration spokesman Tony Burke had demanded a royal commission rather than the Howard government's approach of adopting the Comrie and Palmer reports.

However, events had since moved on, he said.

“There will be no royal commission,” Senator Evans said.