Cornelia and the cult

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The mentally ill woman wrongly locked in Baxter Detention Centre slid into schizophrenia while a member of a Sydney religious cult.

German-born former Qantas flight attendant Cornelia Rau became an initiate of a secretive Surry Hills group, which practises self empowerment.

Today, The Daily Telegraph can reveal the extraordinary story behind the 39-year-old’s mental decline and her membership of the inner-city cult.

The name Ms Rau was using when arrested by police – Anne Schmidt – is a composite of the names of two other cult members.

Last night, her sister Christine said: “It was while she was with them [the cult] that she started getting sick.

“We couldn’t figure out how she got so ill.”

Yesterday, as the Prime Minister ordered an inquiry into the mix-up,The Daily Telegraph identified the cult Ms Rae joined as the Kenja Communications group run by its guru Ken Dyers.

She spent a few months with the group, which runs its classes in secrecy behind steel doors in Surry Hills, in 1998.

Christine said from her home in Kings Langley, western Sydney, it was then that her sister’s health deteriorated.

Attempts to contact Mr Dyers and the Kenja group yesterday were met with silence. The Daily Telegraph was told the name Cornelia was using – Anne Schmidt – is a composite of the names of her two Kenja “buddies” Anna Schouten and Caroline Schmidt.

When Cornelia went missing in March last year, after checking herself out of a Manly psychiatric clinic, Christine said she contacted Kenja for information. But she said they would not answer her questions.

“They seemed very secretive, they wouldn’t talk to me,” she said.

At Kenja’s second floor offices in Surry Hills, The Daily Telegraph found access from their lift blocked by an 3.5m steel security door.

When we knocked, a man answered and said: We have nothing to say.”

Repeated attempts to contact them directly and by phone were rebuffed.

The 83-year-old founder and leader of Kenja, Ken Dyers, also refused to comment.

His staff accused The Daily Telegraph of misreporting his trial over charges he sexually abused girls as young as 11 who attended his “energy conversion” sessions.

He was convicted in 1999 but was then cleared after a High Court appeal in 2002.

Dyers always claimed he was framed by former members motivated by revenge and hate.

Last night, a former Kenja initiate said he knew Cornelia and saw her downward spiral.

“She went a bit funny at the time she was in there,” he said.

Kenja claims it is “a non-religious, non-political personal communication training organisation, designed to help the individual achieve his/her goals and discover his/her purpose” on its website.

It also has offices in Parramatta, Canberra and Melbourne.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
The Daily Telegraph, Australia
Feb. 8, 2005
Lisa Davies

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