Self-help course still inadequate: owner

The Australian/August 12, 2009

The owner of a company behind a self-help course attended by a woman who jumped naked to her death just days later admitted yesterday that its procedures and staff were "inadequate" - and remain so, more than 3 1/2 years after her death.

An inquest into the death of Rebekah Lawrence heard that the teacher of the course said he was not sure of the dangers inherent in the "life-changing" and potentially "traumatic" program.

Lawrence, 34, died on December 20, 2005, after getting undressed, shouting "I love you" and jumping from an office building in Sydney's CBD, two days after completing the Turning Point course. Her family insists she was happy and stable before the course and an autopsy found no drugs or alcohol in her system when she died.

Richard Arthur was the most qualified member of staff on the course, but had completed only a couple of psychological courses as part of a degree in computing, and attended the Turning Point course itself and others like it, before leading the program.

Mr Arthur said the course, which promised "a journey to the core of the human spirit", was not suitable for "vulnerable" people.

Geoffrey Kabealo, chief executive of People Knowhow, which runs the course, admitted procedures at the time of Lawrence's death were "inadequate".

Counsel assisting coroner Robert Bromwich asked whether Mr Kabealo accepted "that even the arrangements you have now are inadequate", given that teachers on the course "do not have the skills, training or expertise to diagnose a psychosis".

"Yes, that is correct," Mr Kabealo replied.

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