Schapelle Corby is a person, not a meal ticket.

Schapelle Corby with sister Mercedes.

Last night we learned that Schapelle Corby twice attempted to harm herself with a knife this week while being interviewed by Indonesian parole officials. Both times being forcibly restrained by her family and members of the parole board who were present (details here).

If Schapelle Corby goes back to jail – which looks increasingly likely –  it will not be the fault of the Indonesian justice system.

Fingers have already started to point to her family who have done immeasurable damage to someone they claim to love, but who appears to have become their meal ticket.

Reports from the Indonesian Parole Authority confirm that they will “probably” revoke Schapelle’s parole after Mercedes Corby gave an interview to Channel 7’s Sunday Night program which also featured exclusive footage of Schapelle at the beach with her brother and in the five star luxury resort where stayed for three weeks after her release. Paid for by Channel 7.

The Indonesian authorities had made it very clear that Schapelle should not do the interview, nor should she or her family profit from media deals due to the significant backlash in Indonesia about the fact that a convicted drug dealer was granted parole. There is understandable public outrage that since her release, a convicted criminal has been living in a degree of luxury unimaginable to the Balinese population. And reports of seven figure media deals for her first interview have also provoked public outrage in Bali.

Mercedes Corby in the Channel 7 interview.

How naive then, for the Corby family to look for a loophole to proceed with the interview when they knew it would antagonise Indonesian authorities.

How irresponsible of Mercedes Corby to comment on the details of her sister’s crime, insisting repeatedly that Schapelle is innocent and that the drugs may have come from Indonesia, not Australia, effectively saying the Indonesian justice system got it wrong and is incompetent, corrupt or both.

What on earth was the point of that? How could anyone think it was a good idea?

Schapelle is not a free woman.

She is out on parole at the liberty of the Indonesian government who can send her back to jail at any time – and now look very likely to do just that.

What was in it for the Corby family for Mercedes do that interview when the stakes are so incredibly high and when Schapelle’s mental state is clearly so dire? Money. That is all.

The Corbys on television, celebrating Schapelle’s release.

It’s hard to know whether the actions of the Corby clan, when dealing with the media over the past 10 years, are motivated by ignorance or greed. Clearly, they are not a worldly, educated family. But still, they have managed to accomplish some impressive things since Schapelle was first arrested with more than 5kg of drugs in her boogie board bag in 2004.


They have campaigned tirelessly for her freedom. They have nursed her through years of shocking mental illness triggered by her jail sentence. And they have secured her parole. These are no easy things.

They have also made millions of dollars according to industry sources, by selling interviews photos and books about their daughter and sister.

This is not in itself a bad thing. When Schapelle was arrested, they were not a wealthy family and legal bills must be paid somehow. It’s understandable that the family would want and need to raise funds and if selling interviews while she was in jail helped do that, who wouldn’t?

But things are different now.

Schapelle is no longer imprisoned but she’s also no longer protected – from the media or herself.

She is a deeply traumatised woman with significant mental health issues.

Media interest in her is high but with a smart, considered strategy it could have been managed in a way that wouldn’t antagonise the Indonesian government.

All the clandestine head-covering and hiding out just makes the media more desperate for access. Give them what they want – a short, humble statement on the day of her release which would have satisfied a curious public – and the Corbys could have instantly diffused the intensity of the attention.

Mercedes Corby.

But none of that was possible because the Corbys had a lucrative media deal to protect.

Of course, the Seven network now insist no money was paid to Schapelle or Mercedes for the interview they broadcast on Sunday Night. But nobody is fooled by that. There is clearly a long term arrangement in place – explicitly referred to at the end of the interview when host Chris Bath said:

“When the authorities permit her to speak, Schapelle has told Mike Willesee she’s prepared to honestly answer the hard questions. If and when that day comes, we’ll be there.”

For ten years now, the Corby family have been in a position of great power in controlling media access to Schapelle. She is their golden goose. But with her freedom and her sanity so perilously teetering on the edge, it’s time for them to stop focusing on golden eggs.