Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner hits out at AFP plans to take over Pinkenba COVID facility

Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner hits out at AFP plans to take over Pinkenba COVID facility
  • PublishedApril 26, 2024

Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner has hit out at plans to turn the controversial Pinkenba quarantine facility into a police training centre rather than repurposing it for the homeless.

The Australian Federal Police will take over the 500-bed centre later this year to convert it into a training facility.

Cr Shrinner, who first suggested the centre be turned into emergency accommodation almost two years ago, described the federal government’s decision as “heartbreaking”.

Lord Mayor of Brisbane Adrian Schrinner in a suit smiles with flags behind him.
Lord Mayor of Brisbane Adrian Schrinner has described the move as “heartbreaking”.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

“This is a really demoralising decision for the hundreds and hundreds of people that are living in tents and cars,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane.

“There’s no homes available for people that need crisis accommodation. I’m just devastated.”

The $400 million purpose-built facility, in Brisbane’s north-east, was completed in October 2022 to be used for quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it has never been used for quarantine and sits empty.

Decision follows centre’s future use

Cr Schrinner committed $1 million last year to relocate people living in the city’s parks to the Pinkenba centre.

The Queensland Government also pledged $10 million to transform the facility into emergency accommodation.

But in a joint statement, Federal Finance Minister Senator Katy Gallagher and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced today it would transfer management of the centre to the Australian Federal Police.

“This decision follows engagement with agencies across the Commonwealth and Queensland governments regarding the future use of the centre in Pinkenba,” they said.

“The Australian Government will retain the ability to direct that the Brisbane centre be used in the event of emergency.”

Cr Schrinner described the decision as “an example of the government letting down the community”.

“We can’t afford to accept … homelessness as an ongoing situation in our community,” he said.

“I know that there are reasons why Pinkenba is not necessarily ideal but it is not ideal for people to be living in tents in parks and in cars.”

Social housing advocates call for greater funding

Karyn Walsh, CEO of social advocacy group and service provider Micah Projects, said the quarantine centre had small rooms and no kitchens or laundries.

“I really want to see more money go into housing where people don’t have to keep going through crisis accommodation because people are stuck in it,” Ms Walsh said.

“We really need to put the millions into getting housing that people can stay in for as long as they want to, or can, or their health allows them to.

Woman with short blonde curly hair wearing a white and black printed top and black cardigan.
Micah Projects chief eceexutive Karyn Walsh said the Pinkenba facility wasn’t a long-term solution.( ABC News: Michael Lloyd )

“What we really need is a place for people to call home. Pinkenba isn’t a place where people would want to live in the long term.”

Q Shelter, which works to improve housing outcomes for Queenslanders, described the federal government’s decision as disappointing amid a homelessness crisis.

“We consider it shameful that so much time went by without any way to effectively engage three levels of government and the community services sector in how the site could play a role, even if temporarily,” said Q Shelter executive director Fiona Caniglia.

“We are in a crisis. This requires urgency and effective decision making. In the middle of a crisis, we can’t afford a decision like this to take 18 months.”


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