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Psychological false imprisonment in Australia

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Marking International Human Rights Day yesterday (10/12/12), Dr Leong Ng explains that there may be many people in Australia today being imprisoned falsely ― psychologically.

(Image: Matt Bissett-Johnson.)


In Australia, the idea of psychological false imprisonment was referred to by Sydney barrister, Mark Robinson in 2008 in a paper delivered before a NSW Legal Aid Commission Seminar, entitled “Damages in Imprisonment Matters”.


The definition of psychological false imprisonment is derived from the concept of physical false imprisonment, a matter discussed and documented since the Magna Carta.

Briefly stated, it is the unreasonable involuntary – even subtle – subjugation of an individual to a position which psychologically affects the person on a prolonged basis. This can be via a restraint on his freedom in any activity including that which he uses to earn a livelihood. As Robinson had stated, sometimes, the victim may not be even aware of it.

In my view, there may be the groups of people in Australia being imprisoned falsely on a psychological basis ― something that should be of great public concern. They are often those who are vulnerable, and which the system or individuals view as ‘exploitable’ for a said purpose.

Many Australians, for instance, may not be aware of – or are uncomfortable acknowledging – the long standing psychological imprisonment of its Indigenous peoples, associated with human rights abuses throughout colonial history. This has been repeatedly highlighted by successive United Nations Commissioners, even to the current day.



Another good example, which received international media attention, was the false imprisonment of Dr Muhamed Haneef by ASIO without charge, in what appeared to be an attempt to test the then recently enacted anti-terrorist laws by the Howard Government. The test failed and Dr Haneef was vindicated and compensated several years later following much debate and rhetoric. Although there appeared to be no psychological false imprisonment on a long term basis, the effects of the false physical imprisonment have a bearing on the concept of psychological damage. This group also consists of some asylum seekers and how they are being treated currently ― but they may also be in another category.

A second group may be professionals who are being recruited to Australia on a temporary basis as guest workers to fill various ongoing needs and who have their professional qualifications and experience intentionally denigrated (i.e. bullied) by the institution’s apparent quest to ‘maintain high standards’ ― and so therefore keeping these individuals at a lower level, resulting in them being, metaphorically, ‘enslaved’. These include overseas-trained doctors, nurses, scientists and engineers ― all of whom are tainted in an arbitrary way by this broad brush stroke approach.

A third group may be persons targeted by the establishment for oppression, career destruction and cold storage. It also consists of patients whose genuine complaints are being dismissed by the members of the old boys’ clubs sitting in statutory bodies like AHPRA.

Supporters at Prof Dewan's October 5 hearing. (Image courtesy Vince de la Pena.)


Over the past year, IA had published the stories of the alleged false psychological imprisonment of Dr Helen Tsigounis and more recently, that of Prof Paddy Dewan. Yesterday, it published the story of a patient, Helen Stanley-Clark.

The author, himself a victim of alleged false psychological imprisonment, has researched and authored an analysis of the March 2012 Report to the Australian House of Representative of an Inquiry into the Registration Processes and Support for Overseas Trained Doctors, called “Lost in the Labyrinth”. The story is now linked to author’s expanded private publication which had been earlier communicated as personal response to the  “Lost in the Labyrinth” Parliamentary Report; to date, some nine months later, this has not been responded to by the Australian Government.

This piece is also in conjunction with International Human Rights Day yesterday, 10 December 2012, and a petition to the Queen.

The contents say it all.



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