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Stories identifying Cornelia Rau win Human Rights Print Media Award

Commission Commission – General

9 December 2005

Stories identifying Cornelia Rau win Human Rights Print Media Award

Stories by The Age's Andra Jackson which resulted in the identification of Cornelia Rau, prompting a federal Government inquiry and changes to government policy is this year's winner of the Human Rights Print Media Award.

The unlawful detention of mentally ill woman Cornelia Rau captured the attention of the Australian public. Few other stories about Australia's detention centres have produced such prolonged public interest.

The judges decided to award the prize for Mystery Detained Woman an Australian because of the sheer impact of the stories which led to the identification of Ms Rau. They said the subsequent changes to government policies on detention and asylum seekers had a positive impact on human rights in this country.

The judges awarded two highly commended entries: Nauru features by Michael Gordon (The Age) - a series of articles detailing the personal stories of about half the 54 asylum seekers on Nauru and their long wait for refugee status; and Papunya - Our Third World Shame by Russell Skelton (The Age) - stories about the appalling living conditions for people in the forgotten community of Papunya.

Michael Gordon was the first journalist to gain unrestricted access to asylum seekers on Nauru. His compelling and comprehensive stories also forced a re-think of the status of those on the island, resulting in the federal Government granting refugee status to many it had previously rejected. Elegantly and clearly written, the stories helped to bring the plight of these almost forgotten people to the broader Australian public.

Russell Skelton's stories impressed the judges in their exposure of the abuse of power and misuse of taxpayers' money. The judges said Skelton displayed rare journalistic qualities in his pursuit of the stories under difficult conditions - in getting access to the remote community and in persuading people to pay attention to the problems there.

The prestigious Human Rights Medal was also presented at the ceremony, along with awards for Law (sponsored by the Law Council of Australia), Community, Arts Non-Fiction, Television and Radio (sponsored by SBS Radio). For full details:

Media contact: Paul Oliver 02 9284 9880 or 0408 469 347

updated 9 December 2005.