Federal Opposition to support new Churchill halfway house
THE Federal Opposition has weighed in to support the organisation behind a controversial halfway house development at Churchill.
Shadow minister for indigenous affairs Shayne Neumann visited the Ipswich office of Five Bridges with his deputy Warren Snowdon on Friday to discuss the efforts of local indigenous organisations such as Five Bridges and the Kambu Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Health leading the way in closing the gap in indigenous disadvantage.
Five Bridges has a proposal before council for a halfway house for offenders. It is controversially located near a safe house for abused children.
Churchill residents presented a petition of more than 100 signatures to council last month in opposition to the development and local councillor Charlie Pisasale has said he has concerns about the location of the boarding house.
Mr Neumann said indigenous incarceration rates had reached crisis levels across the country.
"An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander adult is more than 15 times more likely to go to prison than a non-indigenous person," Mr Neumann said.
"We can no longer stand by while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and victimisation rates continue to increase to alarming levels."
Five Bridges chairman John Pearson said Mercy Family Services supported their development proposal and the group would push ahead with the plans.
Mr Snowdon said the boarding house would be for indigenous people jailed over minor offences to help them get on the right track and believed it would not compromise the safety of children in the nearby Mercy Family Services youth care program. He stressed the planning issues on the location were a matter for Ipswich City Council but there was a great need for programs like these.
"This is all about fine defaulters," Mr Snowdon said. "We are not talking about people who have had committed a violent crime. These are people that are in jail because of some misbehaviour.
"Somehow the community has to accept the responsibility for these people.
"In a lot of cases these people shouldn't be in jail in the first place.
"You have step-down facilities for people that need counselling and support on their way out of the jail system. What is offensive about having people who have made some minor mistake by and large; why not look after them and why would that be a threat to the (Mercy Family Services program)?"