The Melbourne Establishment’s Response to my AIDS Thesis

I began researching AIDS in Melbourne in 1996. I had initially been struck by the similarity of the negative eugenics targets of the Nazis (notably homosexuals and drug addicts) and the epidemiology of AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s – notably that it was a heterosexual disease affecting women and children in Africa (Pattern 2 countries) while it was mainly confined to homosexuals and injecting drug users in the West (Pattern 1 countries, as they were called).

Following 5 years of research and writing I finished ‘Eugenics and Genocide in the Modern World – the cause of the AIDS epidemic?” in 2001. At the time I was a visiting lecturer at Swinburne University’s Graduate School of Medicine, so I sent copies to Professor Avni Sali, the head of the graduate school and Professor Richard Silberstein, head of Swinburne University’s Brain Sciences Institute. I also discussed my theories about AIDS with Professor Sali in person, and with Professors Gustav Nossal and John Mills over the phone. I discussed it, too, with Associate Professor Mike Toole, head of the Burnet Institute’s International Health Unit and with psychiatrists at the Alfred Hospital, who later claimed that my theories where the paranoid delusions of ‘paranoid schizophrenia’.

Professor Sali, who is a surgeon, said that he too thought AIDS was man-made and could not find flaws in the reasoning of the thesis. He said, however, that there was little he or I could do and that it’s a “big program”. He then suggested that I share my thesis with a man called Noel Campbell. Campbell, trained as a dentist, had been given a “research professorship” at Swinburne by Sali and met me in Lygon Street, Carlton for dinner. He told me that he was 90% certain that AIDS was man-made and developed by the USA, and told me about a lawyer by the name of Boyd Graves, who was supposedly taking the US Government to court for developing the Human Immunodefieciency Virus (HIV) as a biological weapon to target Black people. I later discovered that this was a fraud, Boyd Graves worked for the US Navy and was trying to make money from distributing a flow chart of the 1970s “Special Cancer Virus Program” which he said “proved” that AIDS was man-made. Graves also claimed that he himself was cured of HIV infection by a single injection of a drug called Imusil which had been patented by a Jewish businessman by the name of Marvin Antelsman. I found that Antelsman had Israeli military connections and that he had been involved in setting up computer systems for Israeli submarines. Also Imusil is a preparation of colloidal silver that had long been used as an anti-fungal skin preparation by the Israeli military.

Mike Toole, who I met in the street when I was busking and later rang at the Burnet Institute trained as an epidemiologist at Monash University in Melbourne. He is the long-time head of the institute’s International Health Unit (IHU) that has NGO status and advises on AIDS management in numerous countries in the Asia Pacific region. He said “we prefer to the leave the politics out of it and focus on strategies that work”. These were barrier methods of contraception (notably condoms) and early intervention with drugs, though the institute is also involved in promoting childhood vaccination as a major part of its international health programs. Toole’s boss at the Burnet Institute, the Harvard-trained microbiologist John Mills intially supported my opposition to biological weapons, but hung up the phone on me when I suggested that HIV was a bioweapon.

I had several conversations with Sir Gustav Nossal, who was involved in the WHO immunization programs in Africa that may be implicated in the introduction of HIV to Africa (notably the smallpox and polio eradication programs). He asked me to send him a copy of my thesis, which I did. When I rang him later to discuss it with him he and raised the possibility that the USA had developed HIV as a bioweapon to counter the “Third World Overpopulation” concerns that were stridently expressed in the West in the 1960s, he rebuked me, “Dr Senewiratne, this conversation is going outside the realms of a normal scientific discussion”.

The most dramatic of the responses was from Professor Richard Silberstein of Swinburne’s Brian Sciences Institute, when I rang him. I remember the date, because it was September 11, 2001. “Sorry Romesh, I can’t talk now. Turn on your TV. Some of our people are there.”

I turned on the TV and watched the second plane hit the twin towers.

I also gave a copy of my thesis to the psychiatrists at the Alfred Hospital. They refused to comment on it, but said that my belief that AIDS was man-made and involved Australian institutions was a paranoid delusion and a symptom of schizophrenia. This had the effect of silencing me for a while, though I continued to find evidence to support the hypothesis, including the historian Philip Dorling’s discovery in 2001, that Frank Macfarlane Burnet (after whom the Burnet Institute is named) secretly advised the Australian government and military to focus on developing our chemical and biological warfare capability and use it offensively (though illegally) to attack “the teeming hordes” of “coloured people” to our North, which he and other White Australian intellectuals thought were breeding too fast.

This is the 2010 edition of the book, reduced from 600 to less than 300 pages.



With One Voice “Peace” (protest song)

words and music by Romesh Senewiratne-Alagaratnam Arya Chakravarti, 2004

recorded in 2006




Looking at the sunshine

But kept in the dark

The weatherman said it would be fine

Another glossy, casual remark

‘Cause a new war looms and we’ve seen it all before

A new war looms and we’ve seen it all before


The TV talks up the conflict again

It showed the friendly soldiers and some were weeping

It slowed the lonely viewers already sleeping

Said the special correspondent ‘the soldiers are despondent’

This time the administration has acted without consent

And its time to voice some real dissent


‘Cause a new war looms and we’ve seen it all before

A new war looms and we’ve seen it all before


No longer hypnotised by lies

The masses mobilized

To stop the growth of arms in the skies

The masses have been mobilized


They dance and march and wave placards

The poets and the singing bards

They say with one voice “No War!”

They say with one voice “Peace!”

They say with one voice “Peace!”


Walking Down the Fine Line (protest song)



Walking down the fine line in an age of confusion

Walking down the fine line between truth and illusion


They argue for war, but if they’d seen what we saw

They break the law, but we’re not the fools they take us for

Though we’re walking down the fine line,

We’re walking down the fine line


Even the church has backed away

From the debate of the day

“Not a just war this time”, they say

“Not worth the price we’d have to pay”

Even the rabid warmongers wait


They don’t want to be viewed with hate

But they quietly terrorise the state

With warnings that time is getting late


And we’re walking down the fine line

We’re walking down the fine line

As politicians raise the alarm

The people are frightened of the calm

The bishop reads another psalm

And searches for words to serve as a balm

As more people march for peace

The prisoners and captives will be released

As shackles are disregarded and destroyed

Along with the army’s brand new toys

Maybe the generals will be detained For crimes against humanity and acid rain

The generals have had their day

Now it’s time to find a better way

They don’t care how many they slay

The priest commands the congregation to pray

But there’s got to be a better way, there’s got to be a better way

The taxman say’s we’ve got to pay

For the troops and the war and the games they play

But there’s got to be a better way

There’s got to be a better way.


(Words and music by Romesh Senewiratne-Alagaratnam Arya Chakravarti, 2003)

Guitars, bass, percussion and vocals by Romesh



AWB Wheat Scandal (protest song)

A song about the bribes paid by the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) and BHP to Saddam Hussein’s regime, while the Australian government was preparing to invade Iraq.




Another scandal has erupted

The Cole Inquiry is in the news

We’ve heard the wheat trade is corrupt

And we’re finding out who knew


The companies in question

Giants in their trade

The Big Ones playing big bribes

The secret deals were made


They knew about the kickbacks

That we know is true

The bribes were paid and the deals were made

As talk of war grew too


They said “I know nothing”

But we know what they said wasn’t true

We know that they knew ’cause it’s all in the news

But did they know that we knew, too?


The Wheat Board had a single desk

It was called Monopoly

The boardmen played the board game

And they paid the banker too


Then BHP saw profits In a country between wars

The UN had it’s oil for food

And passed out many laws


Then the people of the world cried “foul!”

And they said the children starved and died

The regime they attacked in words

Was also paid in bribes

A ‘humanitarian gesture’, paid with interest

Mr Cole called it a ‘soft bribe’

But the men who paid it were hard as stone:

Cowboys in the Third World

With plenty cash and guns

Cowboys in the Third World

If you see them, you better run


They knew about the kickbacks

That we know is true

The bribes were paid and the deals were made

While talk of war grew too


They said “I know nothing”

But we know what they said wasn’t true

We know that they knew ’cause it’s all in the news

But did they know that we knew that they knew too?


Their pictures on the TV

The cowboys aren’t ashamed

They pose for the cameras

And then try to share the blame

How high does it go?

Is it right to the top?

Do the roots of corruption

Hold big business to the ground?


They knew about the kickbacks

That we know is true

We know that they knew ’cause it’s all in the news

But did they know that we knew that they knew too?


(words and music by Romesh Senewiratne-Alagaratnam Arya Chakravarti)

Guitar, harmonica and vocals by Romesh


The Pseudoscience of Schizophrenia

The Pseudoscience of Schizophrenia looks in detail at the theory that schizophrenia is primarily an iatrogenic problem which is worsened by the current disease model in psychiatry.

The term “schizophrenia” was coined by a Swiss psychiatry professor named Bleuler who declared that the young people whom his rival the German psychiatry professor Emil Kraepelin had classified as “suffering from dementia praecox” had, in fact, a “split mind”. This was later discussed ad nauseum – was there, in fact, a split between “thought” and “affect” as the Eugen Bleuler has postulated in 1911, or is it a misnomer but still a valid label?

When I studied medicine at the University of Queensland in the early 1980s we were taught that though the term “schizophrenia” is a misnomer, it is, in fact, a “real illness”. This was said to be a developmental disorder that was partly inherited and characterized by “chemical imbalances” in the brains of people, many young people, who heard voices, had hallucinations, and held delusional beliefs. These beliefs, we were told, included such things as belief in magic, UFOs and that thoughts can be put into ones head by remote means (with no mention of the TV’s potential to do so).

This book questions this and associated jargon and doctrines of the medical branch of the mind sciences – the doctors who profess to have expertise in “mind treatment” (psyche+iatros=psychiatry) rather than “mind knowledge” (psyche+logos=psychology).

Talk therapies and words that are used in therapy (and by the media and wider society) have profound effects on the health of individuals and nations. The use of pseudo-scientific terms that rapidly become terms of abuse has a long history in medicine – take the terms idiot, moron, cretin and mongol, for example.

Nowadays people are abused as “schizos” and “being mental”. Yet the entire focus for what passes as “mental health promotion” is centred on convincing more people that they are mentally unhealthy and need to consult their doctor. The doctors themselves are groomed to prescribe at the drop of a hat.

Though there is a growing market in “antipsychotic” drugs the biggest money-spinners are the “anti-depressants”, especially the SSRI drugs. Depression is also amenable to talk therapies and non-drug approaches such as music, creative activity, building interests and social activity. Strategies for promotion of mental health without the use of drugs (or ECT) are explored in later chapters of this book.


My First Mental Health Review Board Hearing (May 1995)

Some of the nurses at Royal Park were sympathetic. I remember one telling me, “I know, Romesh, that there’s nothing wrong with you, but you have to play the game if you want to get out of here”. Playing the game meant admitting that you were ill when you were first admitted and swallowing the tablets you were given without protest. The nurses also told me that I could apply for a Mental Health Review Board hearing, which was supposedly “independent of the hospital”, though held on the hospital premises. I was told I could have legal representation and, knowing no other lawyers, I asked the solicitor who had done the Groove-On contracts, David Hancock (who was a friend of Anthony Dymke), to represent me. I asked Sara to come to the hearing too, as my support person. I was confident that I would released, but my optimism was unfounded.

The lawyer David was out of his depth. He did a poor job of refuting Owen’s arguments. He asked if I was a risk to others or myself. Owen admitted that I was not a risk to others, but could damage my own professional reputation. This is ironic indeed. What damaged my professional career was the hospital writing to the Medical Board saying that I was mentally ill, and my family spreading the rumour that I was in and out of mental hospitals.

The Board consisted of a lawyer (in charge), a psychiatrist and a ‘community member’. Tony Owen represented the hospital.  I didn’t know at this stage that less than 5% of appeals to get off CTOs are successful. Owen also told an anecdote that I could see swayed the board members, especially the community member, who nodded in agreement with him. He said that he once had a young patient who was pleasant and intelligent (“like Romesh”) but hypomanic. He said the patient escaped from hospital and drove at high speed, killing a pedestrian. The fact that this was merely an anecdote and I have always been a careful driver (I haven’t ever had a serious accident) escaped the board, and I sensed that I might not win my discharge after all. Indeed I did not. I lost the appeal and was returned to the locked ward. I begged Owen not to send me back there. “Don’t you have any compassion?” I asked. His answer was callous. “I once had a bit of compassion, but it has shrivelled right up”.

I went into my room, threw myself down on the bed and wept for the first time since my admission. I then decided to escape. I phoned Sara and asked her to come and collect my wallet. She did so. I then rang her back and asked me to come and visit me again. This time I asked the nurses, who were sympathetic, if I could go for a brief stroll on the grounds and have a cigarette with Sara. They allowed me to do so. Once I was out of the doors I told Sara to keep walking. We hastened our pace as a nurses came out calling for me to return. We walked quickly to the carpark and got in Sara’s car. She was as white as a ghost. I was shaking with fear too.

Sara then dropped me off in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy where my studio was located and went home. She was later visited by police, asking if she’d helped me escape. Shortly afterwards she left the country and went to Europe.

Finding the studio locked, I walked around to Anthony Dymke’s place. I was shaken and my legs wouldn’t stop trembling. I discussed my situation with Anthony and his wife and they suggested that I leave the state. I didn’t have any money, since the State Trustees had frozen my back accounts, so Anthony bought me a ticket for a coach to Queensland the next day. I headed up to Brisbane thinking my ordeal was over. It had only just begun.


How My Family Framed Me as Mad

Royal Park Hospital


On the night of 7th April 1995, Robert Purssey rang up the after-hours psychiatric services claiming that I was “smoking lots of dope”, had “smashed up my flat” and “manhandled” my flat mate. These were false claims, repeating hearsay from my flatmate Adrian Deakin. Deakin and I had an argument about his not paying his share of the rent and his appalling hygiene and I had asked him to leave, but I did not “manhandle” him. I also did not smash up my flat or damage it in the least. I was smoking no more ganga than I had for many years, and considerably less than Robert himself (who also abused alcohol, which he later went into rehab for, before reinventing himself as an “ACT therapist”).

Robert’s role in misinforming the psychiatrists at the Royal Park Hospital, after I was taken there by police on the request of a psychologist by the name of Mark Salter, is evident from the discharge summary from the hospital, written by the registrar Jan Theobald in May 1995, after I escaped from Royal Park the second time and caught a bus up to Queensland with the help of friends.

In Jan Theobald’s discharge summary numerous false and misleading claims are made about me. She wrote that I referred to a complex series of ideas that made no sense to relatives, naming these as “the bioblos” and the “chaotic theory of time”. This was a reference to the palaeontology theory known as the “Four-Dimensional Bioblob” that I read in a book on fossil discoveries in Australia (Riversleigh) that boasts a foreword by no less than Sir David Attenborough. It was not an original theory and I first read about it and tried to explain it to my family in 1993. Robert Purssey, who was my sister’s boyfriend, evidently did not understand the theory, despite its simplicity and elegance. The 4-D Bioblob hypothesis profoundly observes that we are physically part of our parents as a single organism in the fourth dimension (time) and they are part of their parents and so on through the tree of life. It conceives of this “bioblob” as constantly changing and growing as a single interdependent organism travelling through space and time, and illustrates the interconnectivity of living species. When I read about it this concept resonated with me, and I tried explaining it to many people, most of whom understood it. Robert did not, and failing to understand it, pathologised it as evidence of ‘mental illness’

The ‘chaotic theory of time’ refers to none other than Chaos Theory, about which I was reading and which is a well known theory in Western physics. Inspired by the famous fractal pictures, I was exploring the connections between chaotic patterns and development of the aesthetic, with particular reference to the organic shapes and forms of the natural world and perception of beauty, and how these change with time. This was original, but not insane and certainly did no harm to myself and others (which is a necessary condition for involuntary detention in Australia).

Jan Theobald also wrote that I claimed to be able to diagnose people instantly on sight, without the need for a proper history and examination. Again, this came from my family, and not from conversations I had with Theobald (who never spoke to me, though I was locked up under her consultant Tony Owens for 3 weeks and she wrote the discharge summary). This was a very damaging claim and was untrue. All competent doctors are able to make what are called “spot diagnoses”, and I have made many over the years. However, it is important to confirm the diagnosis by the history and examination as well as relevant tests. I have never departed from these principles; the allegation was very damaging and understandably raised the concerns of the medical establishment. What’s more, Theobald’s discharge summary was copied and sent to both the Queensland and Victorian Medical Boards, during efforts to stop me from practising medicine (though there were no complaints from the people who mattered – my patients).

Theobald also wrote that I “stated to relatives” that I’d had a “revelation like Buddha” in which I became aware of the “oneness of all living things” and began “haranguing friends and relatives about this incessantly”. She also wrote that I was brought up a Christian but had a “recent conversion to Buddhism”. Again Theobald got it wrong. I had converted to Buddhism and had many insights by reading and comprehending the truth of certain Buddhist writings, but that is not where I developed concepts of the “oneness of all living things”. This came from my understanding of the 4-dimensional bioblob, which, as I have said, I read in a palaeontology book. From Buddhism I became more aware of the ubiquitous nature of change, which includes personal change and raises doubts about the psychiatric concepts of fixed personality and “premorbid personality”. I didn’t discuss Buddhism with many people, but Robert was one of the people I did. I told him, to his annoyance, that Buddhism provides a better model for psychotherapy than the Western psychiatry he was studying. He evidently regarded our debates as me “haranguing him”. He has a thin skin.

Then there was the claim by Theobald that I attempted to give my practice away gratis to my locum. This is again not true. I did say that I wanted to sell the practice to concentrate on my music, research and writing. This never eventuated. I lost the practice, which was closed down by the State Trustees on the instigation of Robert and my sister Shireen, who had organized for me to lose my financial and legal rights by application to the Guardianship and Administration Board while I was locked up at Royal Park. I had never heard of the Guardianship and Administration Board and was so drugged hat I could barely stay awake and had difficulty talking. From my sketchy recollections of the event, I just begged to be allowed to go home and consented to whatever was asked of me. I didn’t know they’d use the system to deprive me of my daughter, my medical practice and recording company, my legal and financial rights and my family home. Robert knew the system, I didn’t.

Years later, in 2002, the registrars at the Alfred Hospital repeated in their discharge summaries all the false and misleading claims made in the Royal Park discharge summary including the ‘bioblos’ and ‘chaotic theory of time’ but never thought to discuss them with me. They also claimed that I tried to give “practice grants” to my locums (having misread gratis as grants) and that I claimed to be able to diagnose people on sight without the need for a proper history and examination. Mud sticks.

Theobald continues, with the “history of present illness” to write:

“He failed to pay his employees in the weeks leading up to his admission and had omitted to pay his rent, taxation and superannuation commitments. He was spending uncharacteristically large amounts of money on books. Thought his flat mate was spying on him and that people were tapping into his telephone, Referred to Inner South CMHC and CATT by family. Refused community Rx [treatment]”

In truth I had only two employees, my receptionist Pam and locum, Dr Ganesh. I did not neglect to pay them and neither did I fail to pay my rent, superannuation or tax. This was made up by Robert Purssey to support his claim that I had ‘mania’. I spent $600 on books for my cross-disciplinary research, which I could well afford. Regarding my flat-mate Adrian Deakin: he had been convinced by Robert to run a second phone line into his bedroom and listen in on my phone conversations, so as to report on my behaviour to him. Later, Robert convinced other friends to collect answer phone messages from me and copied them and sent them to psychiatrists, as well as a radio interview I gave in 1995 after I’d been discharged. In this interview I stridently criticised the psychiatric system, and Robert thought it would convince the psychiatrists that I had “chronic mania”. He continued his campaign for several years, until he and my sister separated.



The intake referral taken by ‘Damian’ names ‘Robert Percy’ (Purssey) as the person making the referral and my “Brother”, and also the “treating GP/psychiatrist”. Rajan Thomas is named as the “case manager”. My surname is misspelt ‘Senewiratna” (as it was by Tobie Sacks). It claims that I was “not sleeping”, which was untrue and an attempt to frame me as having “mania”, of which reduced need for sleep is a classical symptom.

Being a psychiatric registrar, Robert knew the classical signs of mania and crafted his reports of my behaviour to fit this. He “framed” me as mad, in other words.

My experience at the old Royal Park Hospital traumatised me for several years. I still have nightmares about it. The worst aspects were the boredom and the effects of the haloperidol and clonazepam that I was drugged with. This was for a diagnosis of “hypomania” which is described in the DSM IV as a mental state that is not characterised by psychosis (unlike mania) and can, in some individuals, result In improvement of efficiency and achievements. Hypomania is defined as an “elevated, irritable or expansive mood” that is not the effect of drugs and lasts for more than 5 days. It is accompanied by other symptoms characteristic of both hypomania and mania (hypomania means less than mania) including increase in goal-directed activities, increased sociability and talkativeness, increased use of puns and humour, ‘flight of ideas’, grandiosity and reduced need for sleep. The DSM also states that hypomania, unlike mania, is not characterised by problems in social and occupational functioning and does not require hospitalisation. Despite its positive features, suggestive of improved mental health, hypomania is regarded as a precursor of mania, and in Australia is treated in the same way as full-blown mania with incarceration and dopamine-blocking antipsychotic drugs. This is what was done to me when I got too happy, independent and positive for the system and my family who worked for the system, with whom the system sided against me. The system remains on their side.1995 RPH discharge summary 01

My 1995 Theory of Motivation

This is the diagram I drew when I was trying to explain my theory of motivation to Rajan Thomas in March 1995, shortly before I was first “sectioned” (as Thomas called it). BG stands for basal ganglia, and my theory was that satisfaction of instincts for communication, curiosity and play resulted in release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the midbrain. This is now accepted to be the case in the ‘pleasure circuits’ and dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens.

At the time I had not heard of the nucleus accumbens, but was developing integrative theories about the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline (NA in the diagram) and serotonin and the function of the reticular activating system (RAS) which is a noradrenergic network involved in sleep and consciousness. I postulated that our motivation is a balance between not just instincts and conditioning as I had learned at medical school, but by free will, which I regarded important both psychologically and legally as well as spiritually. I suggested to Rajan Thomas that free will is influenced by our memories and experiences. I also acknowledged drives for food, shelter and sex, but was more interested in developing theories about the instincts that could be used to promote mental health, like communication, curiosity and play. I subsequently presented my theory of motivation at the physiology department of Monash University (October 1995), Theosophical Society (1996) and the Australian College of Mind-Body Medicine (1998) to a much more receptive response.

Rajan Thomas gathered only that my theory of motivation was that “movement causes improvement in mental health”. The theory evidently went over his head, and I realised this at the time when I asked him what he thought motivated people.

1995 theory of motivation explanation to Rajan Thomas

The Lead-up to my First Incarceration

I believe that humans have an instinct to seek freedom. This instinct was called “drapetomania” when expressed by Black slaves in the USA, who tried to escape. The “treatment’ was to catch them, lock them up and whip them. Whipping was a favourite treatment in the early Australian lunatic asylums too, as well as physical restraints and chemical restraints with an increasing range of toxic drugs. When insulin was discovered in 1921, the first thing they tried was to “treat schizophrenics” by sending them into a coma by injecting them with insulin in 1922. Labouring under the delusion that fevers may cure schizophrenia they tried giving people typhoid and malaria – as a treatment – along with injecting turpentine into the abdomen to cause an abscess, which needed to be drained in theatre. This was all on purpose, with a supposedly “scientific” rationale. Prior to that they tried spinning beds and chairs, convinced that mental illness was caused by too much or little blood flow to the brain, and also developed various methods of immobilization of ‘manic’ or ‘excited’ patients.

During the 1930s and 40s the Nazis subjected people labelled with schizophrenia, manic depression and personality disorder to what they called ‘euthanasia’ or mercy killing under the notorious Aktion T4 program. This was before the mass killing of Jews and Gypsies. Prior to that, several American states established eugenics laws prohibiting the marriage of ‘mentally ill’ people and allowing for the castration of mentally ill and “feeble-minded” boys. Eugenics, initially developed at Cambridge in the 1880s, was also embraced in Australia, where it formed the “scientific” basis for the genocide of Aboriginal people and “breeding out the Black” to create a “White Australia”.


They also used to cause convulsions on purpose, using chemical toxins, as an alternative to electrical shocks, which were given without anaesthetic at first. This resulted in fractures, but was declared to be a successful treatment by its enthusiasts, as were the notorious “ice-pick lobotomies” popularised in the 1940s by Walter Freeman and his followers. There were other atrocities committed under the notorious but still rarely mentioned MK programs of the 1950s and 60s , where the CIA enlisted numerous well-known universities in the USA, Canada and UK to assist in brain-washing and mind control programs, supposedly to counter the “Communist menace”. These included “deep-sleep therapy” and insulin comas, combined with such frequent electric shocks to the brain that the victim was rendered incontinent and unable to talk or walk. They were then “reprogrammed” through various methods including playing repeated loops of audio tapes and other such then modern technology.

The age of lobotomies ended in 1950 with the discovery of the first “liquid lobotomy”, the dopamine-blocking drug chlorpromazine in France. This was the first of the phenothiazines, marketed as Thorazine in the USA and Largactil elsewhere (including Australia). Largactil is credited with ending the era of asylums and allowing mentally ill people diagnosed with “schizophrenia” and previously confined for years to be to be discharged from hospital and treated in the “community”. However, Largactil and the other dopamine-blocking “neuroleptics” or “antipsychotics” (also called ‘major tranquillisers’) were found to have serious side-effects, including irreversible brain damage in the form of “tardive dyskinesia” (TD). TD is characterised by uncontrollable facial, tongue and limb movements; it is hard to imagine a more stigmatising condition, since the limbs writhe uncontrollably, the tongue protrudes in and out, with puffing of the cheeks and facial grimaces. A person with TD looks mad, and this is worsened by the uncontrollable urge to pace up and down and inability to sit still known as “akathesia”, which is also caused by these drugs, presumably due to the blockade of dopamine receptors in the basal ganglia of the brain. They also cause anhedonia (lack of pleasure), reduced creativity and flattened emotions. Cruelly, these side-effects are frequently blamed on the “illness” itself.

Wikipedia says:

Chlorpromazine largely replaced electroconvulsive therapyhydrotherapy,[40] psychosurgery, and insulin shock therapy.[36] By 1964, about 50 million people worldwide had taken it.[41] Chlorpromazine, in widespread use for 50 years, remains a “benchmark” drug in the treatment of schizophrenia, an effective drug although not a perfect one.[17] The relative strengths or potencies of other antipsychotics are often ranked or measured against chlorpromazine in aliquots of 100 mg, termed chlorpromazine equivalents or CPZE.[42]

According to Wikipedia, chlorpromazine is a “low potency” antipsychotic and less likely to cause tardive dyskinesia than the “high potency” antipsychotics like haloperidol (Haldol) and fluphenazine (Stelazine). I have never had fluphenzine (notorious for causing the ‘Stelazine shuffle’) forced on me, but I have been forced to take haloperidol by mouth and also been injected with long-acting “depot” preparations of the drug. The side effects I developed traumatised me for years after, and long after the actual effects had worn off. This trauma was because of the memory of the incarceration and drugging.


I haven’t yet developed TD, but the condition may develop many years after treatment starts and increases in likelihood the longer it is continued. It may also worsen despite stopping treatment and is itself untreatable. I dread getting this horrible iatrogenic (treatment-induced) condition. I have experienced the other common neurological problems caused by dopamine blockade, namely akathesia and Parkinsonism, with similar symptoms to Parkinson’s Disease, but caused by dopamine receptor-blocking drugs rather than degeneration of the dopamine-producing nerve cells in the basal ganglia (the known cause of Parkinson’s Disease).


I came to the attention of the psychiatric system because of my family, namely my father Brian Senewiratne, sister Shireen Senewiratne and her boyfriend at the time, Robert Purssey. All were doctors working in the public system and my father also got his friend, Dr Chelvarayan Barr-Kumarakulasinghe, to make another referral, in addition to those of Robert and Shireen. My father then wrote a series of letters to the psychiatrist Rajan Thomas and his registrar Noel Barrett, purporting to provide “collateral history”. I have received these letters and Thomas’s own notes when they were provided as evidence against me at the Queensland Health Practitioner’s Tribunal in 2003, but had already obtained some of them in Freedom of Information (FOI) requests I made myself from the Alfred Hospital and Monash Medical Centre and before that from the Formal Hearing of the Medical Practitioners’ Board of Victoria, held in July and August 1996. These documents have helped me piece together the roles that my various family members played in my initial incarceration and subsequent ones. I have long grappled over their motives.

In his first letter ‘framing letter’ to Rajan Thomas, which was hand-written, long and rambling, my father ended it with the revealing line:

“I hope this long dissertation doesn’t result in someone certifying me!!!!”

He evidently knew that being certified as insane is a traumatic experience, which he didn’t want for himself, but was advocating for his much saner son.

Though my sister made a referral to the Junction Clinic in St Kilda on May 18, 1995, she left it to her boyfriend Robert, who was a psychiatry registrar, to make the phone calls to get me locked up. Robert also went through all my things after I’d been locked up at RPH, looking for evidence to substantiate his claim that I had “mania”. When I escaped the first time from Royal Park it was Robert who tracked me down, a task for which he took “compassionate leave” from work! When I escaped a second time and travelled up to Brisbane, not realising my father’s role in my incarceration, Robert flew up from Melbourne, got a mutual friend, Margie Ruddy to invite me out and then stalked me in a nightclub, all the while refusing to talk with me directly. Instead he followed me around and asked the people I spoke to what I had said, warning them that I was mad and could not be believed.

In response to the initial referral by my family the Junction Clinic sent a psychiatry registrar by the name of Noel Barrett to my flat. I had moved in there in January 1995 after separating from my wife Susan the day she arrived from Brisbane after spending two weeks there with our two-year-old daughter Ruby. Sue was furious after being told by Shireen and Robert that I was having an affair with Sara Di Genova, whom they had invited to mind their house in North Fitzroy while they too holidayed in Brisbane (where our parents live). This was untrue. I was infatuated with Sara, something Shireen knew, but we were not having a romantic relationship, though later we did, and ended up living together and having a daughter, Zoe, many years later. Zoe was born on 30th August 2009 at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, by which time Shireen and Robert had two children but had separated, and Robert had remarried. He has since had two more children and is working as a psychiatrist in Brisbane. He refuses contact with me, and has done since he stopped trying to get me locked up. My father has never stopped trying and is trying to get me locked up again right now.

I thought the registrar Noel Barrett was a strange man. I had no rapport with him. He asked me to come to clinic, which was nearby, the next week to see the psychiatrist Rajan Thomas, who my mother had told me was an expert in autism and known to my uncle Chelvarayan Barr Kumarakulasinghe, who was working as a de-facto psychiatrist (his qualification was a surgeon and he had been professor of surgery in Kandy before coming out to Australia after spending some years in the Middle-East) and is married to my mother’s cousin Nirma, who was my piano teacher when I was a child. Rajan Thomas was a strange man too and not an expert in autism at all. This had merely been a ruse to get me to see him. He saw his task not to discuss my evolving theories with me but to see if I could be “sectioned”, meaning certified as mentally ill and involuntarily confined. He wrote in his notes that “the family wants him sectioned” but that he did not think it could be done legally, and sought a second opinion from the director of the clinic, Tobie Sacks, who I was delighted to hear was a nephew of the famous British neurologist and author Oliver Sacks.

I liked Tobie and was able to develop more rapport with him than I could with Rajan Thomas or the registrar Noel Barrett. After interviewing me for an hour he wrote:

Thank you for asking me to review Dr Senewiratna. A 30+ yr old separated medical practitioner, he presents with mildly elevated mood, slight grandiosity with pseudophilosophical overvalued ideas regarding mental illness, behaviour and motivation.”…

“While it seems very probable, from the recent history, that Dr Senewiratna has been hypomanic, exhibiting elevated mood, grandiosity, flight of ideas and increasingly dysfunctional, uncharacteristic behaviours, and while he is now still mildly elevated in his mood and has several unrealistic, possibly overvalued ideas (his hypothesis) I do not find him to be certifiable/detainable under MHA [Mental Health Act].
There is currently no evidence of flight of ideas, pressure of speech, risk-taking behaviour or impulsivity in his activities. Throughout the interview he remained calm, cooperative and were able to establish good rapport. Affect was reactive and generally appropriate. The overvalued ideas/hypothesis about behaviours/mood etc are fairly firmly held, but not to delusional intensity”.

My hypothesis was that humans have a number of neglected instincts, including communication, curiosity and play, and that these instincts could be used to develop therapeutic strategies individually and as public health programs. I also developed theories about the development of aesthetic appreciation in what we see and hear, that again had practical applications, but the psychiatrists were not interested in my theories other than to determine whether how strongly I held them (and not whether they were justified and rational).

Rajan Thomas has recently been charged with sexually assaulting one of his long-term patients in his rooms and in a Melbourne psychiatric hospital. This came as no surprise to me after his explanation of what motivates people – meaning himself – in March 1995. I asked him, in good faith, what motivated people, something I was developing theories about. His answer is in keeping with the recent charges against him for sexual assault. He said “well, if you see a woman walking down the street (and he put his hands on his chest, simulating breasts) you want to jump on her but you don’t because of the people who are there”.  It was a bizarre answer that I was not expecting – my theory was that we are motivated by instincts for communication, curiosity and play!

My Psychiatric Experiences

©2018 Dr Romesh Senewiratne-Alagaratnam

According to the statistics, at the age of 57 I am getting to the end of my expected life. This is because psychiatric patients in Australia have twenty years less life to expect than the rest of the population that haven’t been branded with the label of “mental illness”.

Before I became a reluctant patient of the Australian psychiatric system, I had graduated and worked as a doctor, specialising in what was called ‘family medicine’, but better known as ‘general practice’. General practice, conducted by General Practitioners (GPs) is contrasted with medical and surgical care provided by specialists, recognised experts in various ‘medical specialties’. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) established its Family Medicine Program (FMP) to establish general practice as a specialty of its own, devoted to family medicine, an important part of which is preventive medicine. It also includes counselling and a great deal of psychiatry, provided as primary care for people of all ages. I entered the Family Medicine Program as a second year resident, and in 1990 I was granted vocational registration by the RACGP. I was not a member of the college, but received vocational registration when it was introduced because I had already been in general practice for more than 5 years.

I entered the University of Queensland to study medicine in 1978, when I was 17 and straight out of high school. I had attended “Churchie”, a boy’s school that has changed its formal name from “The Church of England Grammar School” to the “Anglican Boy’s Grammar School” and slipped down the comparative academic ranking of Brisbane schools. When I entered the university it was with 17 other boys from Churchie, including the two boys who had shared the Tyrwitt Cup with me for the best academic students in Year 12 (1977). I never actually saw the cup I had won and it was taken home by one of the other victors. I wasn’t much interested in it, to tell the truth, but I was proud of my academic success. It reinforced the belief that my mother had instilled in my sister and I that we came from an “intelligent family”. But intelligence and academic success are not the same; many intelligent people do poorly in the academic system, and many people do well academically by repeating, without questioning it, everything they are told by their teachers. Exams favour people with good memories, and “retentive brains”. It favours students who can apply equations and laws but not necessarily understand how the equations and laws they apply were derived.

From a young age I was expected to “study hard” to “come first in every subject” with the notable exception of Singhala, which I was only expected to pass. This pressure to “come first” came from my father and was transmitted to me by my mother. My father rarely spoke to me, even when I was living in his home. I did, however, have long and varied conversations with my mother and my older sister Shireen, in whom I foolishly confided my innermost thoughts and fears. Foolishly, because she used to knowledge to manipulate, dominate and control me, which she delighted in.

Shireen was also expected to come first in class and the pressure on her continued to her years at university, while my father gave up on my doing well, though he insisted that I sit at my desk and “study”, rather than play the guitar. He was outraged when I first started busking to get around the fact that he tried to control me financially. At the time one of his registrars had seen me and asked if he didn’t give me any money. My father came home furious and demanded that I stop busking. But he didn’t expect me to “win a First Class in Medicine”, which he demanded of my sister. Years later she confessed to me, in tears, that she felt huge pressure to avoid his disapproval.

Though she did well in medicine, and got a First Class, my father and sister had a tumultuous relationship when she was at Uni, mainly because he accused her of “fooling around” with her boyfriend Channa. Channa was the son of Basil and Erangani Seneviratne, who were family friends of my parents and had lived in the same block of flats in England before returning to work as doctors in the hill city of Kandy (Mahanuwara) in Sri Lanka’s central mountainous region. Basil was a cardiologist and Erangani, who had gone to school with my mother, Kamalini, was a pathologist. They moved to Brisbane from Christchurch (New Zealand) in 1978 after sending their oldest children ahead of them, first Arjuna (MIkka) who stayed with us in 1977 till his older brother Channa arrived. Both Mikka and Channa were romantically interested in Shireen, and Mikka was disappointed but not surprised by her decision to go out with Channa, whom she eventually married, but later divorced without children.

Basil and Erangani’s third child and older daughter was Dammi (Damayantha) who I had an adolescent crush on, though I found her hard to communicate with. I took her to the school formal, when Shireen was taken by Mikka, in year 12. I hired a flared white suit for the occasion with no insight into how incongruous I looked, and didn’t have a clue how to start a conversation or sustain one. When, the next year, Dammi invited me to the Somerville House formal as her date, again I didn’t know what to say to her. I was a shy guy.

When I was first locked up, supposedly for an elevated mood and increased talkativeness, Dammi was the only member of her family who visited me, the others having been warned that I had “changed” and was no longer nice. She even offered for me to stay in her flat with her sister Amanda when I was discharged from hospital. This was in the Woden Valley Hospital in Canberra, where I was locked up for three days over Easter, 1995, after escaping from the Royal Park Hospital in Melbourne (RPH). I had been locked up at the RPH on 7th April, 1995, in an event that disrupted and changed the course of my life. This is when I was transformed from being a respected doctor to being a stigmatised madman, a maniac, a ‘mental patient’.