Last year I applied for my brother’s records during his involuntary confinement in Pearce House, Wolston Park Mental Hospital 45 years ago, under the Right to Information Act. My request was sent to the Information Access Unit at West Moreton Health for determination under the Right to Information Act 2009. My request was denied.
This agency can hardly been seen as independent – having oversight of the very institution at the heart of the historical scandal. I did at least discover that there are 196 pages of records that pertain to my brother’s ‘medical treatment’ in Wolston Park from 1978-79: including assessments, observations, and discussions between health staff and my brother.
I argued that there was a strong public interest in being able to access my brother’s files, in order to expose the historical abuses of Wolston Park Mental Hospital, to right the wrongs of the past, and to assist the recovery of bereaved family, like myself.
My request was determined to be contrary to the ‘public interest’ in principle because:
“The information which you are seeking access to, if released, would expose extremely sensitive and vulnerable personal
health and mental health information relating to your brother.… I afford significant weight to this factor favouring nondisclosure.”
I was assessed as an ‘eligible family member’ under the Act, as Randall’s sister. However it was determined that, this was important enough to favour disclosure.
Accountability of government was assessed as having moderate merit. The reasoning was as follows:
“Disclosure of the Mental Health Records would generally advance the transparency and accountability of WMHHS, contribute to positive and informed debate on important issues, and would inform the community of the Government’s operations in its dealings with members of the community, as such I have given this factor moderate weight.”
My deceased brother’s right to privacy was considered to be another reason against disclosure, even though I know first-hand from visits to my brother in Wolston Park how he was mis-treated.
“The information in issue comprises the Mental Health Records and some general health records of the deceased. If the deceased were alive, these records would be considered his personal information. It also comprises personal information about other individuals, including private individuals and healthcare practitioners.”
I wasn’t seeking information about others. Surely this information could be redacted. It beggars’ belief that my deceased brother’s privacy is used to justify non-disclosure some 45 years after he was locked up in a forensic mental health ward for being gay aged 18. He killed himself aged 20 in preference to being sent back to Wolston Park when found in bed with his boyfriend. Why was he given 36 rounds of shock treatment? Why was he locked up in the forensic ward for the criminally insane? Why was he made a ward of the State? Why was he repeatedly bashed, chemically restrained and sexually assaulted in that hell hole for 18 months?
Hiding Randall’s records for 100 years, till no-one is alive to remember the shocking human rights abuses carried out at Wolston Park Mental Hospital is a cover up.
Hiding the past protects Wolston Park from accountability and scrutiny. It’s time for a reckoning of the shocking human rights abuses of this institution during an era when Qld was at the height of police and political corruption in the 1970s and 80s. Just as other abusive institutions, such as, churches and orphanages have had to reckon with their past wrongs, it’s time for Wolston Park to do likewise.