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General News, Mental Health

50 Years for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists to Apologise to Survivors for Abuse including Electroshock Used as Punishment

Citizens Commission on Human Rights 3 mins read

Has anything really changed in 50 years?

It has taken a staggering half a century for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) to apologise in person to the survivors of Lake Alice Hospital in New Zealand, who were tortured at the facility when they were children, under the guise of “treatment”. The Royal Commission into Abuse in Care Inquiry formally labelled their “treatment” as torture. The torture children experienced included electroshock as punishment, heavy sedation with paralysing drugs, beatings and solitary confinement. The “treatments” of electroshock, forced psychiatric “treatment” and seclusion still continue to this day in all states of Australia.

Children with health problems such as epilepsy and those with behavioural issues such as getting into fights at school were taken to Lake Alice between 1970 and 1980.

Psychiatrist, Dr Selwyn Leeks, was in charge of the psychiatric unit where the torture occurred. Leeks moved to Australia in 1978 after inquiries into his practices began, where he continued practising as a psychiatrist in Melbourne. He never faced criminal charges and died 2 years ago. Incredibly RANZCP only stripped him of his college fellowship in December 2022 after he died and after many failed attempts to seek justice by his victims.

The apology by RANZCP for their role in not taking any action and thereby allowing Leeks to escape investigation and punishment was given by the president of RANZCP, Dr Elizabeth Moore. Despite the apology finally being given, it was surrounded by secrecy, with the media not being allowed to film or record the apology, but they spoke to survivors afterwards. The survivors roundly rejected the apology and vented their intense anger and frustration as well as hurt during the two-hour meeting.

One survivor said the apology meant nothing to him and made him angrier.

It appears RANZCP is not prepared to fully support the United Nations and World Health Organisations instructions to end all forms of coercive treatment administered against a person’s will in the present either to prevent psychiatric abuse. Both organisations have called for all member countries to change their mental health legislation to eliminate compulsory treatment and end coercive practices.

UN and WHO October 2023 instructions include:

  • Clearly prohibit in legislation all involuntary measures (which includes forced electroshock, restraint and seclusion).
  • Ban deep sleep therapy (not all states in Australia ban deep sleep), insulin coma and psychosurgery.
  • The UN and WHO said electroshock is an “irreversible intervention” which can cause brain damage and it should be prohibited on children. Legislation must ensure accountability for any transgressions of laws, providing for civil, administrative or criminal sanctions and compensation.

Instead, RANZCP’s website talks about “minimising and where possible eliminating” restraint and seclusion. If something causes harm and death, it should be stopped immediately.

The tragic Lake Alice story of abhorrent torture of vulnerable children under the RANZCP’s watch, clearly shows a gross dereliction of duty in policing one of their own, along with contempt for the victims of psychiatry whose lives were destroyed by what occurred to them at Lake Alice. This contempt continues for the victims continually created in the present who are forcibly electroshocked, forcibly treated, detained, restrained and secluded. History has proven the only way to stop psychiatric abuse is to ban it in legislation because psychiatry simply cannot police itself and stop abuses.

Contact: Shelley Wilkins (02) 9964 9844 or

               Executive Director CCHR Australian National Office

CCHR was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Professor of Psychiatry, the late Dr Thomas Szasz to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.


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